Constants amidst change

Constants amidst change

CIOs can do exactly what they are asked to do by management - and still fail. This is the paradox of the CIO role, says Jack Santos, a research vice president at Gartner.

CIOs can do exactly what they are asked to do by management — and still fail. This is the paradox of the CIO role, says Jack Santos, a research vice president at Gartner.

“How can a CIO be a visionary, an implementer of new technology and at the same time an operational manager whose systems never fail?” he asks.

On the operational side, he points out, how can the CIO find ways to simplify the infrastructure and save money while adding capacity and capability to the same infrastructure? “Can a CIO be a supportive partner while driving IT standards?”

Santos, who worked as a CIO and technology director before joining Gartner, attempts to define what a CIO does by listing the nine requirements for the job — manager of people, manager infrastructure and operations, application delivery, financial manager, business expert, international specialist, customer facing and marketing professional, leader and innovation collaborator.

“These are requirements that are beyond time and technology,” Santos tells CIO New Zealand. “They were true 10 years ago, and they will be true years from now.”

With the advent of trends such as cloud and consumerisation of technology, he sees a shift in the role to one of enabler, broker of IT ideas and the focal point for ideas and new ways of innovating with technology.

How the CIO fills these varied roles depends on the business, financial, personal and political drivers of their respective organisation, he notes.

Related article: How to excel as a CIO

Of all the requirements, Santos says the most important is being a “business expert” or having the ability to relate to the business.

Linked to this is the need for CIOs to know their company’s business and industry as well as or better than their executive peers.

The CIO is the face of IT to the senior leadership of the company, says Santos. “They have to have close relationships with their business peers. That is a very tricky and difficult relationship to manage that certainly has not changed over time and it has become more difficult.”

Company executives that CIOs are working with “are getting pretty comfortable with technology” and are ready to buy external services.

His advice? Sit down with your peers, he says. “Understand their needs and then come up with suggestions and solutions in terms of what they need.”

A CIO that has not built that relationship is putting their job at risk, he says.

Santos likewise observes that in some companies, the CIO is the owner of the technology system. They select it and are working “on behalf of, or for the business partner”. The latter says, “I don’t make the decision about the technology, the CIO does.”

“That will not get that CIO any kind of credibility for a future career in the company,” he says.

Divina Paredes (@divinap) is editor of CIO New Zealand.

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