What do the best CIOs have in common?

The look and feel of technology teams has changed over the years. Gone are the days when the IT Department was a room full of nerds with no social skills. In order for a business to transform and be relevant in today’s digital world, IT teams need to be dynamic & creative and most importantly, they need to be run by a CIO who can set the pace. Over the last few weeks, I’ve had the chance to meet CIOs from various industries. Here’s my list of 7 things that the best of those CIOs have in common:

 1) Create a culture of change & improvement within the IT team

If a business is trying to transform or modernise, the IT team needs to be motivated to ‘make it happen’. The best CIOs I have met have had a clear vision of what they want to achieve and inspire their teams to go on the ‘transformation journey’ with them. They have evaluated the skills within their existing team and figured out very quickly who will embrace a new way of working and given them the tools to work efficiently. They invest in upskilling those who have an appetite to learn new ways of working & thereby win their loyalty.

2) Have the customer experience at the centre of their decision making

In both B2B & B2C organisations, it’s important that CIOs spend time understanding the existing workflows and customer experience. The best people have spent time out ‘on the shop floor’ to witness for themselves which processes work, which ones are intuitive and which ones make the customer feel good about spending their money with their company. Then they figure out how to optimize or improve what’s already in place which brings about more customer loyalty resulting in increased revenue generation & improved branding & PR.

3) Think holistically about what solutions look like

IT isn’t the ‘silver bullet’ solution to bring about change. Good CIOs aren’t just thinking about introducing lots of new tech into a company, they think about everything that can be done within the organisation to transform it & make it more efficient. That might be introducing new software or it might be as simple as changing a business process. They don’t just think with an IT hat on, they look at how change can happen in every single department across a company & look at how technology might facilitate that change.

4) Try new things

They aren’t afraid to try things out to challenge the status quo. Sometimes this is new technology (AI, blockchain, Big Data are common topics at the moment) & sometimes it’s encouraging people with experience from different industry sectors to bring ‘fresh eyes’ to a problem & encouraging lateral thinking; did they solve a problem in a different industry sector that would work in their new role? They have a ‘fail fast’ mentality; they inspire their teams to break new ground & give them the freedom to play around with new ways of working and new technologies. They embrace failure and acknowledge that more than half of the solutions that are presented won’t ‘go live’ but they encourage independent thinking and praise & reward curiosity.

5) Embrace diversity

The best CIOs proactively work to ensure there is diversity in their team. A team made up of different demographics of people brings about diversity in thought & a variety of unique solutions to customer driven requests and issues. Race & gender are obvious factors but different educational backgrounds & industry knowledge are also valuable. This isn’t easy to achieve in the IT sector but the best CIOs will create an environment where a broad variety of opinions are welcome and this in turn gives them the reputation of being a diverse employer which helps them attract even more diverse talent.

6) Make their voice heard

CIOs are in the driving seat in today’s businesses. CIOs are arguably the most influential people when it comes to business strategies. The best CIOs are able to influence the board and ensure that IT teams no longer are the executors of the boards demands but that they are central to the business succeeding in an increasingly technology-forward world. They make sure that they have a voice and that it is heard, all whilst ensuring that the business sees the value and commercial benefit of investing in a technology-driven strategy. They need to ensure the rest of the business buy into the investment in technology innovation; that they see what the benefit is to them, to the customer and how it will impact the bottom line positively.

7) They don't claim to have all the answers

Good CIOs ask questions. They ask everyone questions. They want their team members to be curious but they themselves are constantly looking for newer, better ways of doing things. They don’t claim to know it all and spend a lot of time within the CxO community to figure out what’s worked for other people and what they can learn from other peoples’ mistakes. They also share their own learns from their failures and by creating an open forum for sharing ideas, everyone delivers better & faster.

If you are currently in a CIO role and are looking to build out your leadership team, I specialise in working with CxO and 'Heads of' technology divisions/teams. I am also available for confidential conversations around career advice for Senior Technology professionals. Please contact me at kunjal.tanna@esynergy-solutions.co.uk