Editor’s Question

Editor’s Question

As the role evolves, what should tech recruiters be looking for in the ideal CIO?

Debra Sutton, Regional Vice President APAC, WalkMe

Debra Sutton, Regional Vice President APAC, WalkMe

Remember the good old days, circa 1995, when Chief Technology Officers’ chief responsibility was ensuring on-premises solutions were running smoothly and downtime was kept to an absolute minimum? Back then, being the CIO of an organization was the ultimate backroom role; top of the career ladder for technical mavens who, in some cases, were more comfortable working with machines than people.

The corporate IT landscape has changed a lot in the intervening three decades, as organizations have collectively embraced digitisation and cloud computing with a vengeance. Inevitably, the role of CIO has evolved apace. These days, organizations with an eye to the future are – or should be – looking for high tech head honchos with a very different skillset.

So, what skills should be in that set, alongside the obligatory technical know-how?

I believe understanding the importance of the people and user experience factor can be invaluable, as can the ability to engage effectively around these considerations with colleagues at all levels, from the frontline to the C-suite.

In fact, I’d argue the ideal CIO is someone who focuses on people, first and foremost. For them, rolling out the latest digital technology isn’t the only name of the game, although that continues to occur at bewildering speed. Rather, it’s also ensuring people use that technology effectively and to the benefit of the organization.

That doesn’t happen by accident, even in today’s times, when digital technologies are embedded in almost every aspect of our home and working lives. Robust enterprise technology is not as simple or intuitive as personal apps and many users are still reluctant to embrace the new in the absence of compelling evidence about how it will enable them to work smarter and faster. In some instances, they may be suffering from ‘app fatigue’, courtesy of the expectation they’ll utilise an ever-expanding array of systems and solutions.

Today’s CIOs now play an important role in ensuring there is a strategy to educate users – to tell them and, more importantly, to show them how the new technology in question will make a difference for the better. A software rollout is no longer deemed successful if or when it “goes live” – but rather when employees are adopting and using it in the way it was intended.

If a CIO isn’t considering these factors from the outset, there’s every chance employees will succumb to ‘software paralysis’; avoiding or refusing to use the tools that purport to make their jobs easier and more rewarding. The result? Wasted time and money on the organization’s part and a missed opportunity to optimize technology investments.

That’s why organizations should be setting their sights on IT leaders who are committed to bringing employees with them on the Digital Transformation journey, not charting the course and trusting they’ll keep up.

Lindsey Zuloaga – Chief Data Scientist, HireVue

Lindsey Zuloaga – Chief Data Scientist, HireVue

By nature, the role of a CIO requires a deep understanding of Information Technology and emerging trends. As a result, one of the first things that recruiters often look for is a candidate’s academic qualifications and how they apply to the role. 

A suitable candidate should have a background in Information Technology that includes proficiencies in areas such as network infrastructure, data management, programming languages, software development, cloud computing and cybersecurity.

Alongside these skills, recruiters should focus on whether prospective candidates have a comprehensive understanding of the technologies and compliance requirements that are specific to the industry they operate in.

However, when recruiting for a CIO, it’s important to not narrow the search solely based on technical prowess. While the primary role of a CIO is to oversee the IT function of a business their C-suite position also means they are responsible for staff recruitment, retention and development. To accommodate this, recruiters should also hone in on a candidate’s interpersonal and team management skills.

Prospective candidates should have a proven track record of building and leading high-performing teams.  Effective communication and interpersonal skills are essential in cultivating a team environment that motivates and engages team members, fosters an open feedback culture, supports performance management and aid in problem solving. Strong communication skills also play a role in the CIO’s ability to bridge the gap between technical teams and non-technical stakeholders.

One of the final attributes to look for is a CIO’s adaptability. Given the rapid evolution of the technology landscape, a CIO must be open to continuous learning and be able to pivot strategies in line with emerging tech innovations to build and maintain an organization’s competitive advantage and efficiency. Having your finger on the pulse of technological developments and anticipated changes that will impact an organization’s performance is not just an advantage, but a necessity in today’s fast paced environment. A track record of successful project management and a demonstrated ability to innovate and drive Digital Transformation is a must.

Andrew Russell, CRO, Nyriad

Andrew Russell, CRO, Nyriad

Today, the role of CIO is more integral than ever to an organization’s success. This role has transcended its traditional technical boundaries to become a strategic linchpin in the C-suite. Consequently, recruiters and hiring committees should focus on various competencies that extend beyond mere technical expertise when searching for a CIO.

First, the candidate should have a profound grasp of existing technology frameworks and approaches, as well as the foresight to proactively adapt to emerging innovations and shifts in the industry. They need to proactively identify opportunities where technology can drive business value, whether in operational efficiencies, customer engagement, or competitive differentiation.

Next, well-honed leadership skills are essential. The CIO will guide and inspire teams – often comprised of cross-functional experts – to innovate and execute. Prerequisites for this role include strong management skills, team-building abilities and creating a culture of continuous improvement. The best CIOs are skilled managers and inspiring leaders who can articulate a compelling vision and energize their teams to achieve it.

The ideal CIO will also be skilled in aligning technology decisions with the company’s broader business goals and objectives. This involves thoroughly understanding the company’s industry, market conditions and business strategy. The CIO should be adept at translating this understanding into a technology roadmap that meets current needs and is flexible enough to adapt to future challenges and opportunities.

Effective communication is another non-negotiable skill set. A CIO must be an expert communicator who can break down complex technical strategies into business-relevant insights. Whether presenting to the board of directors, working alongside other C-suite executives or communicating the value of IT initiatives to external stakeholders, a CIO should be capable of articulating the strategic importance of their decisions in clear and compelling terms.

Finally, change management is an often overlooked but a critical competency. Implementing new technologies is invariably disruptive and requires meticulous planning and execution. A skilled CIO must manage this change seamlessly, ensuring minimal disruption while keeping all stakeholders engaged and informed.

To sum it up, the ideal CIO is a multifaceted professional endowed with a balanced skill set that includes technological expertise, leadership abilities, strategic vision, practical communication skills, and proven proficiency in change management. The challenge for recruiters is to identify candidates who possess these skills and demonstrate a successful track record in leveraging them to deliver tangible business outcomes.

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