What Makes a Top CIO?

It’s a thankless though often lucrative job being a top CIO. Many of the most promising candidates – the ones that really understand how to use technology to transform a business – don’t survive the cut and thrust of Boardroom politics. Political survival is a necessary skill, though it tends to add value to the individual rather than the organisation. Ideally, we need visionaries who can grasp the potential of IT and translate it into compelling business language. But in practice most CIOs struggle to align IT imperatives with business interests, especially in a competitive business environment where IT professionals are treated with contempt by business managers.

So I’m always interested to see how CIOs perceive success and, in particular, how they rate their counterparts, many of whom are likely to be direct competitors for the next major headhunt. Silicon.com’s recent poll of the UK’s top 50 CIOs provides a fascinating insight. I wish I’d been able to place a bet on this poll because I would have picked up a few bob. Top of the list was no surprise: Paul Colby of British Airways. Paul is a clear leader in his field because he’s highly successful and, unlike many of his peers, operates seamlessly across IT and Business. He’s transformed BA’s business model through smart use of e-Commerce. He’s also beefed up their security considerably. On top of that he’s a great presenter and a very nice guy. We need more like him.

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