A CIO heads a successful business initiative and gets an industry accolade, then is head-hunted for a similar role in another and, presumably, bigger company. The CIO moves to the new company and leaves six months later, failing to duplicate the earlier success. The CIO brought the same leadership skills – in business technology and strategy, and more – to the new organisation, but struggled in the new environment. What happened and why does this tale resonate among CIOs across sectors worldwide?
At the recent CIO Summit in Auckland, keynote speaker Dr Joe Peppard of the Cranfield University School of Management tackled this subject and said that there are “relationship factors” that impact on a CIO’s success at the workplace. In the case of one top CIO, Peppard said the environment that enabled him to be successful in his old organisation was not present in his new role. “They probably hired him because they had a problem in IT.”
He also pointed out CIOs face leadership challenges that their C-suite colleagues do not face. Pivotal is the IT savviness or digital literacy (or lack of it) in the executive team. “A lot of CEOs and CFOs disengage from IT conversations — they don’t create an environment for IT to be successful.”
What I liked about Peppard’s presentation was his holistic approach to analysing this particular CIO conundrum. True, he proffered a range of advice on things the CIO can do (such as building relationships and having the ‘right conversations’ with business colleagues), but he also lists some of the things chief executives should be doing if they want “IT-enabled growth” to move from that of business strategy to reality.
For one, CEOs can engage with the CIO early on. “Invite the CIO to critical strategy foundation discussions,” he says. “Place the CIO on the senior management team and help the CIO undertake process transformation and give them a mandate to create organisational readiness for IT. Promote partnership with the line of business, overcome resistance to change, and drive ‘IT savvy’.
The presentation was an eye-opener for the CIOs, but also reaffirmed some of the things they know should be happening in today’s constantly shifting environment. The challenge is ‘managing up’ and sideways – bringing the message about ‘delivering value as a shared responsibility’ across the C-suite.
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