CIOs share what it takes to reach the top

Successful CIOs are no longer senior executives who have spent their career in IT. They increasingly have spent time working in the broader business world in order to act as an effective interface between IT and the business and, critically, deliver business outcomes.

That’s one finding from Hays Information Technology’s ‘DNA of a CIO’ report, which is based on one-on-one interviews with 243 IT leaders in Australia and New Zealand.

Hays Information Technology found that today’s CIO’s are not boxed in as IT managers, but rather are people who can provide business solutions. They have a genuine desire to be involved in business improvement, and are in a unique position to act as a link between business strategy and IT strategy. As a result, there is no ‘box ticking’ approach to reaching the top IT job; instead aspiring CIOs need to gain a broad base of experience both inside and outside IT.

For aspiring CIOs, the report reveals the ‘DNA’ necessary to reach the top IT job:
1. Build a solid technical foundation:

  • 31% have a degree in Information Technology, Computer Science or Systems;
  • 25% have a Masters of Business Administration (MBA);
  • 53% of CIOs hold IT certifications or have undertaken additional IT qualifications.
  • They possess a broad base of skills.
  • 44% started out in another role before spending the majority of their career in IT;
  • Once they enter IT, it usually takes 11 years or more to reach CIO.
  • 30% have worked for more than five employers;
  • 15% sit on the Board of their current organisation.

2. Develop your soft skills

  • CIOs describe themselves as adaptive (54%), hard working (49%), proactive (48%) and collaborative (48%);
  • 57% advise the next generation of CIOs to get involved with the business rather than just the technology;
  • They have taken courses in people management if necessary, broadened their leadership skills and are accessible;
  • 40% said establishing stakeholder engagement and intra-business relationships is one of their top tips for up-and-coming IT leaders;.

3. Ongoing professional development

  • 71% of CIOs have attended networking events in the last two years;
  • They’ve also kept up-to-date with the latest industry changes (54%), partnered with key departments outside IT (39%), worked with a mentor (29%), undertaken training to understand functions outside IT (23%), and undertaking further formal qualifications (21%);

4. A passion for people
All of the CIOs spoken to had high praise for the talent in Australia and New Zealand’s IT industry. For most of them, working with IT people is one of the best things about being a CIO, and it is this passion for people that is the final piece of their DNA.

“The CIO is now firmly ensconced in the echelons of senior management,” says Peter Noblet, Senior Regional Director of Hays Information Technology. “Rapid advancements in communications and technology have accelerated this development. As a result the role of CIO has quickly evolved. Technical expertise plays a significant role, but other softer skills associated with business management have risen in prominence.

“Importantly, aspiring CIOs should gain exposure to various functional areas of an organisation. One of the most interesting findings of this report for me is that it confirms there is no box ticking approach to reaching the CIO position. You don’t need to have held a certain job before you can be promoted to the next. Instead, reaching CIO is more about gaining a broad base of experience rather than checking off a list of job functions.

“Such a broad base of experience helps aspiring CIOs understand how to deploy technological solutions that map back to business objectives.
“CIO’s truly are an interface between IT and the business,” he said.

About the report
Hays Information Technology’s ‘DNA of a CIO’ report gives aspiring CIOs an insight into what it takes to achieve a leading role in Information Technology in Australia or New Zealand. It is based on one-on-one interviews with 243 IT leaders. We then conducted in-depth interviews with seven CIOs, whose unique insights are shared throughout the report.


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