How to Transition into Becoming the CIO the Business Demands

You have been getting hit over the head with this news for a few years now, but—the CIO role has evolved. Research from Deloitte University Press however has examined the specific trends that are emerging in the ways and the reasons that CIOs are transitioning into new roles. Deloitte finds transitions ultimately occur according to three dimensions: time, talent, and relationships.

Why a New Role?

In the first place, the primary reasons respectively why CIOs transition into new roles for the organization are that (1) there is general dissatisfaction with IT support and leadership and/or (2) the business has made a hard change in strategy. In cases of new hires for the CIO role, internal hires are preferred unless the previous CIO was fired, in which case an external hire is statistically more favorable. The CIOs who are more likely to succeed are the ones with high emotional intelligence and generally strong leadership abilities, as “45 percent of business stakeholders [Deloitte] interviewed said that they selected their new CIO because of leadership and credibility.” Technical competence is not viewed to be quite as important.

Where Success Is Borne

The success of a transitioning CIO occurs according to the aforementioned three dimensions. The first, time, deals with “setting initial priorities, recalibrating business expectations, and achieving quick wins” to create a firm leadership foundation in the first year. More specifically, Deloitte recommends that CIOs do these things in the first year: gain support of high-performing IT staff, align on and follow up with major stakeholder priorities, meet with important customers and suppliers (often a forgotten step), and prioritize IT projects.

The next dimension is talent, which regards the CIO being able to assess talent, remove silos, and build teams with the skills to deliver on strategy. Here, it is recommended that CIOs do these things: be bold about hard talent decisions (e.g., knowing who to fire), build a “compelling career narrative” that enables IT to excite new talent to come aboard, evaluate outsourcing possibilities, and look for diversity in team-building.

The third dimension, relationships, measures if CIOs are building enough internal and external relationships to keep all relevant parties satisfied. A wide network strongly maintained is how a CIO gains and keeps credibility. In this dimension, CIOs should do these things: report to whichever area of the organization allows the most impact, leverage IT supporters to influence other stakeholders, establish governance processes to “reengage” business leaders, and seek informal check-ins outside of formal meetings to keep in touch with stakeholders.

Watch Yourself

If you are entering into the CIO role, Deloitte recommends you ask yourself these things and meditate on the answers:

  1. Who has your back?
  2. What is your change agenda?
  3. Do you have stories to create a strong technology narrative?
  4. Are you focused on the journey or the destination?
  5. Do you have a shared understanding of measuring and valuing IT?

About the journey and the destination, this is written:

During a transition, a CIO cannot know enough to develop a long-term strategic plan. Instead, consider focusing on the journey more than the destination; periodically revisit and adjust strategic road maps and plans. “The first time you compile a strategic plan, 70 percent feels really good, and 30 percent is missing because you are gathering information in piecemeal,” said Bill Miller, SVP and CIO of NetApp. “By the second year, you tune the plan, and you land at around 90 percent confidence because you’re building and evolving and getting more fidelity out of what you did the year before. By the third year, you’re really loving it, and you’re saying, ‘Bring it on, we’re ready to go do this!’ Changes or modifications start feeling natural, and the team is well into the journey and really excited about being able to realize the vision.”

To dig deeper into the data and read many examples of these ideas put into practice, you can view the full 30-page research here:

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