Role Change Of A CIO

Any ascension to the top is always a matter
of time and toil. Such is also true for a CIO’s graduation to CEO. Though there are some
corporates who outrightly thumb down a CIO’s chance of becoming CEO, the statement seems
to have emerged from a mindset than rationality. Nevertheless, opposite views help a
positive evaluation of a CIO’s chance to become CEO, which otherwise would not have been

As of today, nobody can deny the fact that
with greater realization of importance of information technology in an organization, the
CIO stood a better chance to become CEO than he used to be earlier. Such is evident from
the CIO’s assumption of major role in corporate strategy and planning and so as the
subsequent CIO’s aspiration for a CIO hat. So much so that systems department provides
‘business solutions’ and ‘technology power’ and CIO begins to feel the pulse of the
business and herewith his own ambition pulse to control the business.

However, different organizations and
corporate professionals have different levels of realization of this phenomenon. For
example the ‘electronic elite’ find IT absolutely strategic and core to their business.
They like to overstate IT’s indispensability, for it being a part and parcel of their

PV Maiya, Chairman of ICICI Banking
Corporation Ltd, has a very truthful insight into a CIO’s job. The EDP manager of
yesterday had a very routine job lacking creativity and imagination, whereas today, the
CIO is a part of business strategy group and a catalyst to adopt changes as required by
the business opportunities. CIO is also a part of the training establishment to make IT a
user-friendly tool. CIO represents the bank in all the fora and is the most crucial member
in all negotiations with vendors. Moreover, he keeps the entire management team appraised
of all the latest technology developments. He has the capability. He is a part of the
central management committee. Then, "why can’t he become a CEO?" questions the
‘great guru’.

Roopen Roy, Price Waterhouse, however, has
a contradictory view. "In the leading Indian industries, the CIOs are not even in the
board so how can they become CEOs?" He feels, "this is primarily because of the
role of IT as a technology-enabled business strategy is still not satisfactory. If we want
a CIO to be a CEO, he has to rise above the restricted discipline. He should be like a
conductor in the orchestra. As in a symphony, a conductor may not be able to play a piano
like a pianist but he knows the business of managing a symphony. Similarly, a CIO may only
have a working knowledge of marketing and finance but that should not be a hindrance to
become a CEO as long as there is a sustained effort on the part of the CIO to manage the
business like a conductor in the symphony."

Agrees AD Mehta, Associate VP Corporate
Group Controller, Escorts Ltd, that the CIO’s role has increased manifold, yet he doubts
whether a CIO will be able to become a CEO one day. "The CIO role is much more
complicated today. It is not as simple as in the past when he was supposed to only look
after the day-to-day functioning of the IT department of the company. Today, he is
supposed to be a part of the total business perspective. He has to use IT to synergize
with the business he is in. IT is just one of the perspectives for him to ensure that the
information is transmitted on time. And more than that he has to use IT to ensure that it
improves the company’s business. For that he has to continuously enhance the quality of IT
and be updated on the latest. I feel, we are still far from a situation where a CIO is
taking over as a CEO." KB Dadiseth, Chairman, Hindustan Lever Ltd, reinstates Mehta’s
point: "The IT chief has to be much more business savvy. In the quest for CEO he will
not be well received with his only skill of technical know-how."

"However, in the banking industry the
CIO stands a better chance than the regular user industries," admits Maiya, who is
supported by a host of senior banking professionals. Even H Srikrishnan, Head Country
Operations, HDFC Bank says, "CIO is probably the best…He plays a lead role in
bringing the best in technology at a cost-effective price. He understands the business
needs of the bank, so why can’t he become a CEO?"

Subodh Bhargava, Group Chairman and Chief
Executive, Eicher, sums up the debate with more specific points on a CIO requirements to
become a CEO. "The IT chief must understand business and business processes. Whatever
the processes involves, customer production, players in business, requirements of tax
etc., unless he is able to relate to it, he cannot be a successful leader. His leadership
will be effective only if he adds value to the business."

Bhargava believes that the CIO can
definitely aspire to be the CEO. But for that, he has to ensure: n his own succession
planning, he can’t create a vacuum;

  • his familiarity with business;
  • he is able to graduate the management team;
  • he is able to assimilate business with IT;
  • he is an inspirational leader, who can add

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *