If you’re an active reader of online business insights, you’ve probably read articles published on sites such as CIO.com and SearchCIO. Targeted at IT decision-makers, websites such as these feature in-depth editorials on data and analytics, business continuity, change management, collaboration, digital transformation, infrastructure, project management, risk management… The list of topics goes on and on.
The subject matter may seem in surplus, but it reflects the broad range of considerations CIOs need to take into account. Effective CIOs need to be well-rounded and knowledgeable in all aspects of business – including the human side of management and relationship development.
What Does a Chief Information Officer (CIO) Do?
A CIO’s role is to provide the scalability and agility a business needs to operate efficiently and to make decisions about where to invest in the business.
One key challenge for a CIO is to choose tools that will support business growth for months or years to come. Ultimately, all decisions a CIO makes should enable and drive business growth. A CIO must act as a proactive business partner who can identify new opportunities to overcome this challenge.
A CIO is critical to a business of any size because above all, they are problem solvers. They innovate and transform, anticipating the future and strategizing to get ahead of the curve.
The Difference Between a CIO & CTO
While some may argue it’s an issue with semantics, others may agree the functions are distinct. However, the ideal relationship between a CIO and CTO is symbiotic and synergistic.
A CIO is focused on a company’s infrastructure as a whole, managing and streamlining operations and processes to improve profitability. A Chief Technology Officer (CTO) is responsible for leading the evaluation and implementation of internal technological tools, focusing more specifically on the technology’s architecture and engineering.
Simply put, a CIO is more focused on operations and finances; while a CTO is really just focused on new technologies.
What Makes for an Effective CIO?
Clear Communication Abilities
It’s critical that a CIO knows how to manage people and communicate with those above and below them. An effective CIO can easily bridge the gap between high-tech concepts and entry-level business principles so that even an employee with little tech savvy can understand complex needs. More importantly, a CIO should be able to discern the extent to which someone needs to understand – either at a tactical or high level.
Risk Management Skills
Great risk brings great reward. CIOs are not afraid to pitch or take risks because they understand and can communicate the true value of an investment. An effective CIO is results-oriented, focused on measurable improvements to the business and achieving its vision.
Leaders need to be able to empower and motivate their teams in a way that increases productivity. Leaders also maintain high levels of honesty and integrity.
As a leader of operations, a CIO needs to trust and understand the strengths of those they work with across various departments. Task delegation is critical, and having the right people in the right seats is essential for internal organisation and overall business growth. Transparency within the organisation is also critical to maintain a healthy culture.
Project Management Skills
Project managers need to be able to communicate well with both their clients and team members. They’re responsible for translating, sharing information, updates and next steps between points of contact. Effective project managers are able to resolve or prevent issues by getting the right information to the right people through the right channels, exactly when the information is needed.
An effective CIO understands project management and how to make the information transfer process more efficient. They also understand how to elicit clear and actionable feedback to minimise the time it takes to determine agreeable solutions.
Prioritization Skills & Flexibility
Along the lines of project management, CIOs need to understand priority and task management. They have to be strategic at all times, despite all the fires that pop up and moles that need to be whacked.
That being said, they need to be flexible in their ability to organize, plan, and solve problems. Additionally, technology changes rapidly. A CIO needs to be able to keep their destination in sight, navigating the maze of daily operations to consistently drive their organisation forward in the right direction.