Today’s CIO needs more than technology mastery. Long-term career success also demands a commitment to developing a set of core business skills.
The days when CIOs could glide into a long-term career based solely on their technical abilities are rapidly fading.
“It’s no longer enough for IT leaders to be tech experts,” warns Bob Hersch, a principal at Deloitte Consulting. The best-in-class CIOs of today are also business savvy, using their knowledge to embed IT as a service capability.
“This business-centric approach integrates IT into an overall business strategy,” he adds.
The best way any IT leader can augment his or her current technical knowledge — and strengthen their long-term career prospects — is by committing to acquiring the following seven essential business skills.
1. An entrepreneurial mindset
CIOs, regardless of their organization’s size, have to act like entrepreneurs, operating with speed, agility, and ever higher levels of passion, empathy, and creativity, advises Ram Nagappan, CIO at global investment firm BNY Mellon Pershing.
Disruption is the new constant. “Competition is coming from all corners of the market, with fintechs and startups moving at light speed,” Nagappan says. To meet competition head on, CIOs must think like entrepreneurs and act as agents of change. “They need to constantly think about how their business could be disrupted at any point in time and how they can creatively deploy technology to get ahead of potential disruptors and future-proof the business,” he suggests.
2. Strong leadership skills
Leadership is a core competency that paves the way to successful technology transformation. “To truly lead, you must have business acumen in addition to technical understanding,” explains Richard Cox, CIO at media conglomerate Cox Enterprises. “Our jobs are really to leverage technology to unleash the potential of the business, and you simply have to have an understanding of the business landscape in order to exploit these opportunities.”[ Looking to upgrade your career in tech? This comprehensive online course teaches you how. ]
Leadership is a combination of internal and external engagement. The problems CIOs face today are growing increasingly complex. The future is ambiguous, and answers are often not clear or simple. “The only way to navigate in … these uncharted waters, is to build an environment that allows people to bring ideas, perspectives, and input to solve problems,” Cox says. “Building teams that create aligned empowerment is more important today than ever.”
Poor IT leaders often make the mistake of setting project plans, gate reviews, and delivery dates without educating the IT team on the who, what, when, and why of how the effort will help the enterprise, says Harley Bledsoe, CIO at BBB National Programs, a nonprofit organization that oversees more than a dozen industry self-regulation programs that sets standards for business advertising and privacy practices.
“Bringing the team along on the journey as they execute on their deliverables is critical to developing an effective solution,” he explains.
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