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Two Unexpected Battlegrounds for Today’s CIOs

By Brian Reagan, VP Product Strategy & Business Development – I had the good fortune of attending a CIO event in NYC a few weeks back. The first day was packed with panel discussions consisting of these CIOs, as well as other dignitaries from the world of technology, business, and government.   I was expecting to be inundated with “cloud this…” and “big data that…” and discussions of technology implementations, lessons learned, and battle scars that come from running the technology shops of some of the world’s largest brands.


Half the day was spent on the evolving role of the CIO, and how best to achieve a “seat at the C-level table”.  Many described the CIO as a “lonely position”, one that can easily be viewed as a technology fixer rather than a driver of value.   Those more successful (read: those with ‘seats at the table’) talked about their ongoing communications and relationship building efforts to frame the internal company perception of technology as a driver of value, and themselves as change agents.   They described the struggles to get their teams – and business unit stakeholders – to always start discussions around the business needs and associated business plans, and to hold technology discussions to the end.  “We need technology X” was a non-starter, whether it was coming from the VP of Networks or the CMO.

So, battleground one became the elevation of the CIO identity.   Attributes of top CIOs were identified as:

  1. Understanding of state of IT and the challenges / work required to move forward
  2. Ability to business objectives to IT initiatives
  3. Having a vision and effectively communicating it
  4. Being a thought partner with the business
  5. Hiring people better than themselves


The second half of the day was spent on item 5, which turned out to be battleground two: the war for talent.   Across the board, CIOs described the challenges in finding people who can help radically change the business through technology, not just provide internal technology services.    Most declared that the biggest challenge facing them over the next 5-8 years was finding the right talent.   They asserted that the impact of an A player was 1000% greater than a B player.   And, they said, that talent alone wasn’t enough.  They needed talent, who were lifelong learners, who are warriors in times of crisis, and ultimately are champions, leading by example.    That’s great mantra for any hiring manager,.

So what did I take away from this event?   We all need to understand the mindset and drivers for today’s CIOs. Successful CIOs are thinking business first, technology last. They are laser-focused on elevating their value in the organization by helping the business move forward by applying technology.  And they are scared to death that they won’t have enough of the right people to help them achieve those goals.

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