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CIOs should stay focused on IT projects: Here's why

By Catherine Knowles
Mon 28 Sep 2015
FYI, this story is more than a year old

There is currently a lot of discussion about how CIOs and IT departments are under a lot of pressure to expand their skill set and become more focused on the business as a whole.

However, these discussions tend to ignore how important it is for CIOs to focus almost exclusively on IT projects.

A recent article, published by Charles Sturt University in Australia, breaks down the debate surrounding the changing role of the CIO, what skills they need to survive, and how they can benefit the business by focusing keenly on technology.

People generally only achieve the role of CIO after many years of study, many years’ experience in the industry and the acquisition of specific skills. 

In order to be successful this experience must be used in the most effective manner and, contrary to what many commenters say, this means honing in on technology and focusing almost exclusively on IT projects, says Charles Sturt University.

It is also important for CIOs to emphasise broader skills, such as leadership, business intelligence, customer knowledge and planning for the future, while focusing on IT projects.

The CIO can work closely with others in the C-Suite to ensure they are contributing to other areas of the business, without having to move away from IT.

For instance, working closely with the CMO ensures the CIO can contribute to marketing efforts without needing specific marketing skills or strategies.

In fact, business intelligence is emphasised by crossing borders within the organisation and sharing knowledge. Knowing the challenges, issues and goals of different areas of the business will inevitably shape the goals of IT. 

To be effective the CIO must know and understand the business goals and the strategy to achieve them, and this will only be achieved by regular communication with colleagues across the board. 

This doesn’t require further education, a diploma or a masters degree - common sense, asking questions and listening will work. 

Using technology to achieve the business outcomes should be a core focus of the IT group, says Charles Sturt University.

Leadership is mandatory for any senior position. Someone in a senior position who is not able to lead a team is doomed to failure, according to Charles Sturt University.

A CIO needs to have a team which is flexible and agile, with team members who are innovative in the use of technology, not just maintaining it. 

They should also know how to spread the technology message throughout an organisation simply and succinctly, without the jargon.

As a key leader, the CIO also has the potential to be a change manager.

As technology has an impact on the majority of roles and processes, it will be a key reason why a business succeeds. The change could be moving infrastructure to the cloud, a brave and innovative move.

Being proactive and proposing technology solutions to effect business strategies demonstrates a keen understanding of the organisation and consolidates the CIO’s position as a key member of the executive, says Charles Sturt University.

Looking to the future and planning ahead is a key part of being a change manager. Keeping abreast of new and emerging technologies and how they apply to the organisation is critical. 

Technology changes rapidly, so the whole IT team must be involved in this process. Furthermore, with so many areas to cover such as mobility, UC, the cloud and more, it makes sense to have team members looking at key areas and sharing their findings. 

Insights and ideas should also be encouraged, as empowered staff will often think outside the square, according to Charles Sturt University.

Both internal and external customers are important in how technology is deployed and used - technology is only relevant when it meets their needs. The CIO must regularly communicate with all customers to successfully deliver the best solution.

Charles Sturt University says, in a competitive world where technology can make or break a business, and where technological innovation keeps an organisation ahead of the competition, why wouldn’t a business want a skilful CIO to focus almost exclusively on IT projects?

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