The five characteristics of a new breed of CIO: Gartner

Linda Price


CIOs are facing an unprecedented level of conflicting stakeholder expectations. For the past 10 years, they have been required to focus on cost, control and quality in response to global economic conditions. Although these remain important, the emphasis is shifting to demand for technology that is digital, dynamic and diverse, as business leaders look to drive growth over the next 10 years. The personal success of CIOs in the coming decade will be heavily influenced by their abilities to manage the transition to a new role in response to new business expectations, while ensuring continuity in the management of traditional enterprise IT.

The next 10 years are set to become the first truly digital decade, when digital technology will move to the forefront of finding new sources of value in how individuals interact with each other, how consumers interact with providers, and how enterprises interact with partner and supplier technologies. As enterprises rapidly evolve their mindsets and approach to digital, CIOs will be required to either evolve their own profiles and skill sets or risk becoming irrelevant.

The first digital decade is emerging at a different pace across different industries, with some enterprises fully enveloped in the challenge today, while others are only beginning to feel the effect. However, all CIOs, regardless of their industry or enterprise maturity, should avoid the mistake of only watching and waiting.

A complacent mindset can be likened to that of a child on the beach watching the waves hit the shore. Suddenly, a wave comes in faster than expected, and the child has to scramble to get out of the way, perhaps reacting too late. Then another wave comes in faster and farther. The child sees the waves coming, but each one takes him by surprise as he misjudges the speed.

The new set of expectations, coming from a new breed of digitally minded, technology-enabled enterprises, will require a new breed of CIO. Gartner has identified five crucial characteristics needed by CIOs if they are to meet the challenge. For CIOs to be successful in the first digital decade, they must begin making the transition away from the traditional CIO role, and invest time and attention in developing their capabilities in each of these five dimensions:

1. Business understanding -- from breadth to depth

The new CIO needs depth (rather than breadth) of understanding of how the business competes, makes money, and delivers products and services.

This knowledge is likely to be gained either from working in a business unit or from special assignments that have included business accountability, rather than working with stakeholders and attending training courses.

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