Inbox: The chameleon CIO

The role of the chief information officer (CIO) is now more strategically aligned with an organisation than ever before and CIOs must equip themselves with diverse range of skills that blend the traditional requirements of the role with an equal measure of business acumen and leadership skills, says recently released report from Hudson Group.
The report – The Reconstructed CIO: Building and Leading the New IT Function – is based on discussions from Hudson’s recent ICT Industry Leaders Series roundtable event, involving CIOs from some of Australia and New Zealand’s leading organisations.
John Coventry, New Zealand national practice director, Hudson ICT says the testing and challenging business environment of the past two years has had significant impact on the role of the CIO. “With companies operating under greater pressure and scrutiny, the components of the modern CIO’s position now have more in common with that of the CEO. Superior technical skills are no longer enough and it is expected that CIOs will provide greater business expertise and leadership than before. In fact, few CIOs expect that in 10 years’ time their role will need to be filled by someone with background in IT.
Coventry says today’s CIO is challenged by demands to add value, increase competitive advantage and reduce the costs of business, which in many ways can represent conflicting objectives. One key finding of the report is that, post-GFC, IT projects are under increasing scrutiny, in terms of necessity, complexity and return on investment (ROI). Budgets are returning to IT but there is significantly greater analysis of value and alignment with the organisation’s overall strategy.
Roundtable participant Peter Finch, CIO of IT services company Gen-i, says that getting projects approved has become harder, while the demands for ROI are greater. “Our business went through period where they had to make some really hard choices, and those disciplines continue. Some projects that we might have done previously we are probably not doing now because the return on them is not as significant as it used to be or as we now demand.”
Another key finding from the report is that CIOs need to look for broader skills when hiring to ensure they build the right teams: they need people not only with the requisite technical skills but also with business sense, change management skills and strong cultural fit. The roundtable participants noted that the ongoing skills shortage means the talent pool is small and good people are increasingly hard to find. The speed at which the IT industry is evolving means that roles also change frequently – along with their required skill sets.
Hudson has identified eight leadership competencies of successful CIOs and their teams. These are visioning, inspiring, innovating, decision making, collaborating, building talent, building the business and customer focus. M 

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