IT Strategy: 5 Things Top CIOs Have in Common

Tue, 06/10/2015 - 15:12
Cloud Services

The Chief Information Officer has the privilege of aligning the company's IT infrastructure with the company's business priorities. They say that information is power but it's actually the lifeblood of any business, and for the CIO to take information in all its forms under his/her wing, is no picnic. Still, this special breed of manager seems to thrive on the pressure of building an IT strategy that keeps data safe while maximising the company's bottom line.

To have what it takes

In an article published in 2013, Rich Hein, Senior Managing Editor and writer for, eloquently described important traits that a CIO should have, or strive for, to be successful. Five of these are summarised as follows:

  • A desire for learning

By being in one of most volatile and rapidly developing industries in the world i.e. Information and Communications Technology, it's easy to get left behind. Learning to identify trends and being able to identify your own shortcomings in relation to them gives a CIO the edge to always stay knowledgeable. This also facilitates an IT strategy that is crisp and effective and relevant to the business it serves.

  • Master networking and relationship building

Stakeholders of different kinds abound under the umbrella of the CIO. Gordon Whishon, CIO of Arizona University, says, "The CIO, among his many responsibilities, works with internal groups – including developers, support techs, senior management, database administrator, project managers and every department head – and external vendors. Being able to communicate, articulate and influence people is a necessary skill."

Unfortunately this often results in the CIO being the target of criticism and reprimand when things go wrong and it's crucial that they can handle this with grace in order to maintain relationships and solve problems collaboratively.

  • Understand your industry and know your business

The two go hand-in-hand: industry and business knowledge. This enables the CIO to identify the best technology suited to the business case and to develop solutions that stand the test of time – as much as can be expected amidst technological developments.

  • Market ideas and inspire people

With solid networks and good working relationships, he/she needs to be able to inspire people to follow the vision. As IT strategies go, it takes all parts of the machine working efficiently to make a success of it and it's up to the CIO to transfer ideas that result in voluntary participation.

  • Growing people

Implementing the IT strategy will require the best of everyone involved. By recognising talent, the CIO will be able to bring the right people into the business and also develop and grow employees that are already invested in the business. In addition, with the right people in his/her team, the CIO eliminates their own blind spots and is able to leverage skills collectively.

To have what it takes

The IT strategy is essentially the seed from which a thriving IT environment will develop. It includes facets of technology management (including hardware and software), cost management, personnel management, vendor management, and of course risk management – a respected role that can be immensely rewarding for a person suited it. TechTarget emphasises the skills required when executing an IT strategy: "... [it] requires strong IT leadership; the chief information officer (CIO) ... [needs] to work closely with business, budget and legal departments as well as with other user groups within the organization[sic]."

"The plan and its documentation should be flexible enough to change in response to new organizational[sic] circumstances and business priorities, budgetary constraints, available skill sets and core competencies, new technologies and a growing understanding of user needs and business objectives."

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