The 5 Attributes of a Great CIO

By Peter Wilson

Did you envision achieving greatness when you got into IT management? What has stopped you? If you want to be a great CIO– and I know most of you can be –, you’ll need to reprogram some of your previous thinking about the role of technology at your organisation and your role in using it to enable long-term business results. Here’s what separates the great CIOs from the average ones.

1. Builds relationships effectively

Many of us know our IQs, but what about how we measure up in emotional intelligence? You could have a smart, capable team, but if you don’t know how to lead, delegate and highlight the strengths of each person effectively, your department will fail. Relationship building starts here, at the team level, and extends to how you interact with leaders and stakeholders at your organisation. You could have superior technical prowess, but if you don’t know how to convey the importance of your strategic IT ideas to the greater business, what’s it worth? Knowing how to massage relationships with key leaders in the organisation is necessary for total financial and strategic buy-in.

2. Focuses on customers

At the same time a great CIO is forming strategic relationships with key people in the business, he’s focusing on how to use technology to benefit the external customers. About 20 per cent of a CIO’s time should be devoted to speaking with business units and customers. Face time with customers lets CIOs discover what’s working and what’s not, what the customers want and what they hate; this can lead to new commercial opportunities and help you stay on top of the competition. A great CIO will always have the customer in mind when focusing on the end result of a strategic IT project, whether that involves boosting productivity, satisfaction or experience.

3. Resists the hype

Great CIOs develop a set precedent for how IT projects are prioritised instead of being persuaded into implementing a technology because one of the business leaders thinks it’s a good idea. They fact-check the problems before working on an obvious solution: how is x leading to y, what are the actual consequences of y, are there multiple ways to approach it? The great CIO conducts an assessment of each IT management decision, including its benefits and alignment with strategic goals, to understand how each technology solution fits specifically into his business. Instead of following the herd, he keeps the right technical hands on deck and in his partner relationships so he can draw upon a continual source of wise advice.

4. Says it right

Clear communication skills are crucial for any great leader regardless of industry, but for the CIO it’s even more vital. Great CIOs can translate the complexity of a business problem and the way technology can solve it in a way the rest of the business not only understands, but can explain to others. This isn’t about dumbing down information; it’s about clearly communicating the business impact in a way that actually gets the rest of the organisation on board and wanting to take action.

5. Fits everything together seamlessly

The ability to instinctually know when to use leverage in the business separates the great CIOs from the good ones. Approaching strategic IT decisions in this way transforms technology from a solution into a tailored opportunity that enhances the business model’s performance. In some situations, this might involve using technology indirectly or not using it at all. These specific, carefully-timed moves will improve speed, agility and performance and look seamless to the end user or customer.

Peter Wilson is Datacom’s Managing Director of Systems for Australia and Asia. He helps ensure Datacom offers and fulfils technology solutions globally.

Peter strives to drive the success of the business across locations by strategically directing Datacom’s future. His vision ensures every Datacom location is equipped with the world-class knowledge and capabilities necessary to help enterprises transform their IT department.

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