24 Nov Great CIOs are business leaders: What makes a great CIO?
Editor’s Note: Mark McDonald will be a featured Keynote Speaker at the Fusion 2010 CE0 – CIO Symposium, March 10 – 11 at the Fluno Center in Madison. See www.fusion2010.com for more information.
The time was that being a great CIO involved being a great technologist. The relationship between leadership and mastery of a subject matter is strong, particularly in technical disciplines. After all how can a programmer easily follow someone who cannot write a line of code?
If that view sounds limiting, then you have recognized that leadership comes from the ability to create results in collaboration with others rather than creating those results on their own.
For a great CIO those results are business results that build on the technical results created by a good CIO.
Great CIOs are business leaders who see the world in terms of business results. Increasingly these CIOs come directly from the business. More than a quarter of CIO’s responding to Gartner’s 2009 CIO survey came into the CIO position from a position outside of IT. However a CIO coming from the business does not mean that you are a great CIO, or that you are leader in creating business results.
So, are there ways to know if a CIO has the business leadership and results to make them a great CIO? The answer is yes and it starts with the way you introduce yourself says much about your focus and self-identity. Great CIOs introduce themselves in terms of their business accomplishments.
As an example, one energy company CIO introduced themselves to me by stating their name and then closing with “last year we increased free cash flow by $300 millions of dollars.” They use this focus to educate their teams and raise their awareness of the business impact and value created by IT.
A practice cited by great CIOs is building the business basics across the team. This includes understnding the business model and its drivers which is the subject of another blog post. But it also includes giving the IT organization `rules of thumb’ that connect their work, decisions and contribution in a larger context. These rules of thumb include:
Every IT professional knows the cost of a penny per share in earnings
Every IT professional knows the company’s value proposition
Every IT professional knows how the company makes money
CIOs who talk about how big their team is, their budget, their major technology initiative are not bad and they may be great. It is just that they start from a different place. The introduction tells you a lot about what is on the top of the CIOs mind and what they value.
Business results come from a business focus and the ability to connect technology and business resources with a business need to change in performance. This requires the Great CIO to see the business clearly, focus on what matters, organize a great team around that focus and secure the resources and support to have them create great results.
Sustaining changes in business performance on a consistent basis requires mastery of the characteristics of great leadership outlined in these posts and those found in Jim Collins work. CIOs follow different paths in performing these actions and leading their organization. There is no single recipe for leading to business results. However every path starts with being a business leader with a strong focus.
A CIO who has a business focus and creates business results establishes the foundation to move from being good to great.
How does yoru CIO lead in achieving and sustaining business results?
What do you see as essential to leading in this dimension to move from being good to being great? Is it a sense of enterprise politics, is it leading in a crisis, is it by being brilliant?
What are the business attitudes and approaches a great CIO needs?
Recent columns by Mark McDonald
- Regulation 2.0 — hopefully NOT Regulation 1.0 (squared) – Part One
- Defects: Muda in IT matters
- Regulation 2.0 – hopefully NOT Regulation 1.0 (squared) – Part Two
- The value of IT exists over time not at a point in time
Mark McDonald will be a featured Keynote Speaker at the Fusion 2010 CE0 – CIO Symposium, March 10 – 11 at the Fluno Center in Madison.
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. WTN accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.