CIOs and the future – is there a rung missing in the career ladder?

News Analysis

CIOs and the future – is there a rung missing in the career ladder?

Clare McDonald

IT leaders think CIOs do not have the skills to lead business IT in the future.

In a survey of 100 UK IT professionals, most believed the CIOs of today are not equal to the challenge of leading IT in the future because they lack the right skills.

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The survey, conducted by technology services firm Reconnix, claimed the CIO of the future will need to be innovative and have financial knowledge. Some 73% of current IT leaders said they were uncertain whether CIOs today will be the right people to lead IT in UK business using the skills they have in 2018. Some 36% believed future CIOs might need to take on an advisory role, while only 19% think this is a skill today's CIOs need.

Steve Nice, CTO of Reconnix, said the biggest challenge for the future will be the rate of technology growth and how CIOs use this to the businesses' advantage. He said: “What they need to understand is which of these technologies is going to be suitable for their business.”

Nice said the current CIO may not need or be seen to need strategic business skills, but will need them in the future. He said that businesses will need "all rounders" in the future, which he explained as a CIO who has a grasp of all business aspects, including business requirements, technology and finance.

The adapting role of CIOs

Dan Benton, MD of Global IT Strategy for Accenture, said the CIO role is adapting into something different altogether.

“What used to happen, in the old-world CIO, is that a business person had a business strategy and the CIO's job would be to work out what IT strategy supports that and then go away and deliver it.” Benton explained. “What tends to happen now is that business strategy is driven by the opportunities provided by some of these new digital technologies.

“Clearly the characteristics of what is required of a successful CIO have evolved.”

Benton said the new CIO will need to be able to see the connection between the business agenda and new technology, bridging the gap between the two by assessing how advancements in technology can assist the business strategy.

The future and innovation

The IT leaders who took part in the Reconnix survey believed most current CIOs are not adapting to the rate of technology change.

Many CIOs are now dealing with technologies such as social media, analytics, mobile technology and cloud. All of these technologies are becoming more integrated with business activities and it is falling to the CIO to decide how they should be used to meet the company’s needs.

The opinion of many current CIOs is that the way these technologies are used in a business will define the future of the CIO role.

Speaking at the November Computer Weekly 500 Club event – which focused on CIOs and the future – Andrew Drazin, partner at executive recruitment firm Theron said: “The focus in 2020 will be more to do with value added innovation.

“So the IT function of tomorrow will be smaller, it will be flatter, less concerned with business as usual, less concerned with running an operation and delivering services to the business, but more focused on positioning technology as a strategic partner.”

At the same event, Victor Newman, advisor to Social Innovation Lab Kent, said the CIOs who will be useful in the future will be those who “shift from being a chief information officer to become a chief innovation officer”.

Current CIOs should be more than capable of fulfilling a more innovative role in the future, so long as they have that ability to adapt and see how these new technological advancements can help their business to achieve its goals, said Benton: “Look at the business requirement for the chief digital officer – the new CIO. If they can stand up to that, they have a very useful and portable set of skills.”

Can the current CIO overcome this change in appropriate skill? 

Benton said: “It’s all about that increasing overlap between what business is trying to do and what technology enables, and if CIOs can get into that space and own that space, then I don’t think there’s a glass ceiling for them.”


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