Written by Rick DeRose
There was a time when chief information officers were charged with fixing servers and rebooting glitched computers. Those days are long gone. Technology is arguably the most important part of your business model — or rapidly becoming so.
Until recently, data security wasn’t a top-tier priority for board members. A seemingly endless string of cybersecurity attacks has helped CIOs earn a seat at the table as boards look to manage enterprise risks. Last July, Capital One revealed that more than 100 million customers were involved in a data breach of its systems. First American Financial also experienced a leak of 885 million customer records.
In addition to the need for enhanced security, IT leaders must audit internal capabilities to stay ahead of business needs, contemplate whether to buy or build new applications, upgrade skills/talent, and grapple with cost containment.
The new wave of CIOs is expected to weigh in and execute against business strategy, partner strategically with functional leaders, and drive value creation through technology. That added value is evidenced in the fact that eight in 10 companies have taken steps to become digital enterprises, which would not be possible without CIOs leading the charge.
Find a CIO You Can Trust
To recruit CIOs who can guide your company into the future and bridge the boardroom technology gap, follow these five steps:
Conversely, leaders must also ensure that their teams are prepared for things that can go wrong by helping them practice the appropriate responses before failures become catastrophic. By building these muscles before you reach the mountain, your team will be better prepared for inevitable pitfalls and be in a far better place to respond effectively.
1. Protect your business with ironclad security.
Privacy, protection, and authentication are all things your board will want as reassurance that the company is in good hands and protected. As such, CIOs must develop a comprehensive security framework that includes a rigorous measurement process. The key is a followed framework and consistent dialogue directly with your CEO and leadership team about what risks your company is willing to accept.
2. Interview for interpersonal skills.
This might seem counterintuitive. Next-gen technology acumen will always be in demand when hiring a new CIO, but leadership skills have moved up the scorecard rapidly. As leaders, CIOs must understand how to build a community, communicate in nontechnical language, resolve conflicts, and practice discretion while still being candid.
3. Seek strong financial literacy.
CIOs cannot silo themselves to only technology; they must also understand a company’s financial objectives and how a tech roadmap will support value creation. CIOs might have several solutions to a problem, but the financials at their discretion will inevitably dictate which options are best at a particular moment in time.
4. Keep the reporting structure strategic.
Executive reporting structures matter. When the CIO reports to anyone other than the CEO, it limits the talent pool by sending a clear message: Technology isn’t an A+ priority. Make sure to reinforce that tech is a chief business driver by having the position directly managed by the CEO.
5. Expand your search to attract the best.
Think globally with your sourcing strategy rather than limiting your search to a smaller local pool. You want to find the “best athlete” — someone who may or may not be from your industry but who has successfully solved similar challenges, fits your company culture, and has an innovative mindset to reimagine forward-thinking solutions.
To help your board embrace the technology your company needs to survive, you will want a CIO who is capable of the complexities of today’s role. You need someone who has the capacity to face challenges with a vision for the future. In other words, you need a next-generation CIO.
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