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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Things to do before breakfast

I picked this up from a Gillamor and Stephens news letter, make for an interesting read.

There are some who used to joke that CIO meant Career is Over. Now it could mean Chief Innovation Officer. It’s a far cry from when companies wanted CIOs with a programming or systems analyst background.
Peter Hambling, CIO for Lloyds of London and Ian Campbell, CIO of British Energy both recently appeared in the Silicon.com Top 50 UK CIOs list. Here, they speak to iopener about what makes a great CIO.
“The other day I had to deal with the IT logistics around organising a large charity dinner on the 12th floor of the Lloyd’s building. Then the next day, I was dealing with a new system. You need to have the ability to cope with that variety – and to enjoy and thrive on it. You cannot live in a silo. I’ve just come from an early morning meeting with the CEO, and it looks like I have 12 things do to before breakfast. That’s part of the job.”
That is Hambling’s view of the variety involved in a CIO’s role. Today, in-demand CIOs must have technology insight and communicate technical things in terms that non-technical people can comprehend, understand the business, its pressure points, how technology can be applied to alleviate those pressure points, and deliver innovation and strategic advantages in the face of fierce competition.
So what makes up a CIO’s DNA?Campbell, CIO of British Energy says CIOs are now organisation change agents and have to stop worrying about their technical skills and be aware of their need for new ‘business change’ skills.
“As we all move to new, standardised applications, with organisations considering outsourcing to get new skills at lower costs, CIOs will need to have the business skills to be able to manage all that, setting up deals. It’s a bit Darwin-like. CIOs must change or die. It’s not about technology and IT any more, but taking up the mantra of cross-functional change across the business.”
Hambling elaborates, “Flexibility is also key, plus an ability to deal with different cultures. If you’re involved with a global business, you can’t treat all the regions the same. You have to optimise what different cultures offer, and know which strategy to adopt for each one.”
Stablishing critical relationships: A good working relationship with the CEO is critical, because the CIO can give the CEO an impartial opinion of how things really are within the organisation. Given the CEO’s strong security of tenure and the need to institute organisational change, the CIO is often the key executive to implement that.
To accomplish change, the CIO also has to be able to work with other key executives, such as Sales, Marketing and Operations, while in bigger organisations, the CIO will work closely with the CFO.
In organisations with an online presenc: e.g. financial services, the CIO’s affinity with Operations offers possibilities for promotion. A possible career path is to become CEO of the online channel, and use that as a springboard to pitch for the main CEO role when it becomes available.
Understanding your opponents: If the CEO is the CIO’s prime ally, then who is his or her rival? Your main opponent on the Board is always likely to be the other biggest budget-holder in the organisation, because you’re both competing for resources,” says Campbell. “That means you have to have resilience because there is a risk of the CIO getting the blame when thing go wrong.”
Hambling concurs that the CIO now has to have a business development brief. “You have to understand the company’s cost base, be integrated and optimised with the business, match technology to the business’s needs, and align those tools for the benefit of the business.”
Talking to the Board:Presentation skills and the ability to argue a case are critical. And the best organisations will test that ability right from the start. “As part of the Lloyd’s selection process, I had to give a presentation to the Board on a problem that they could make a decision on. It had to be business focused, and in a language that all of the Board could understand; there was nothing to be gained from using any technical jargon,” says Hambling.
Slainte Gordon

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