CIO: CEO In The Offing?

CIO, as
in ‘Career Is Over’ was the standing joke in the CIOL organized C-Change
event two years ago. A lot has changed since then. I am talking of the 2006
C-Change event in Cairo, in January this year. With close to 80 top CIOs
participating in the event, I could sense an upbeat fervor (and this has nothing
to do with the belly dancer as we were cruising on the Nile, see picture on page
180) as they were talking about their role as Change Managers. It seemed a
distant dream that a similar set of executives were talking of an uncertain
future, only two years ago.

Why the change in such
a short time? It is a no brainer that organizations realize that they cannot
function without a good dose of IT and, hence, the importance of the CIO.
However, even more importantly, in many organizations, it is the CEO who is also
driving IT with the CIO directly reporting to him. Also, as line function heads
increasingly trying to define their IT requirements, CIOs are getting a taste of
the business side of technology as well. No wonder then that these guys are
donning the cap of the change agents.

This also leads to a
larger question-will we see the CIO moving into the CEO’s office soon. So
far, it’s typically been the CFO or the CMO who had the edge to move into the
hot seat. I am yet to hear of any CIO moving into the CEO office (let me know if
you have heard of any such instance). I think the trend might take off in a big
way, at least in high IT dependant companies.

Here’s how he can
bring it on.

If the CIO has to move to the
CEOs office, he has to have a very good sense of his business and its
various nuances. And what better thing that getting the lessons hands-on

Firstly, the onus seems
to be on the CIO is bridge the gap between business and technology. While I saw
discontent simmering amongst a few CIOs as to why only they should try to
understand the business need and not the other way round, I think it is a good
thing for the IT heads. Look at it this way-if the CIO has to move to the CEOs
office, he needs to have a very good sense of his business and its various
nuances. And what can be better than getting these lessons hands-on. Chances are
very remote that the CMO or CFO would get into the tech area because technology
is perceived as arcane and geeky. Secondly, to take him to the next level, it is
imperative to brush up his communication skills. As I was listening to marketing
heads talking eloquently about the importance of IT, I found quite a few CIOs
not equally expressive about their domain area and the business impact IT has
made, during their respective presentations. It was just reading one ppt after

Finally, I think the
CIOs should start taking some time off-a sabbatical-to learn the tricks of
the other functional areas. Again, I think this is much easier for the CIO than
the other CXOs as a majority of companies would like to ensure that the IT head
is aware of all aspects of business and will help the organization better and
more efficiently via IT. I hope the optimism I saw among those CIOs spreads
across the entire CIO community and they too start seeing the CIO not as
‘Career Is Over’ but as ‘CEO In the Offing’.

Yograj Varma, associate editor, Dataquest

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