The Next Generation CIO

What will the next generation CIO look like and where will they come from?

The CIO role is undergoing a significant shift, brought about by the recession, globalization, the advent of cloud computing, the explosion of big data, shifting business demands, and the omnipresence of consumer technology.

To compete today and in the future, companies need CIOs who understand the businesses and can think of innovative ways to use technology to improve the customer experience, boost revenue, increase market share and accelerate business growth. This business imperative requires a different mix of capabilities than was necessary to be a successful CIO in the past.

The CIOs of tomorrow need to focus much more on innovation, end customers and business growth, and much less on IT infrastructure. In a recent article at, Khalid Kark, a vice president and research director at Forrester Research, estimates that less than 10 percent of today’s CIOs operate in this business-focused manner. “We’re starting to see a definite change in businesses’ expectations of their CIOs and a lack of real competency in terms of CIOs’ ability to meet those needs,” says Kark.

As evidence, he notes that the ways companies assess the performance of their CIOs are changing. “Some CIOs are measured on business outcomes, such as end user or end customer satisfaction, revenue growth, whether they’re bringing in a new revenue stream. They’re not measured on uptime or on-time delivery of projects,” says Kark.

He also points to turnover Forrester has observed in its client base, which in some cases is a result of companies looking for a different type of CIO, he says. Kark believes that in five years, close to half of all CIOs will operate in the customer- and business-innovation-focused capacity that leading edge companies require today.

Where Will Next Generation CIOs Come From?

Most of the sources interviewed for this article agree that a solid understanding of technology remains required to succeed in this emerging CIO role. That doesn’t mean aspiring CIOs need a computer science degree. Nor does it mean they have to have spent their entire careers in IT. But the CIOs of tomorrow, whether they rise up the ranks in IT or begin their careers in other business functions, need to understand how technology can help their enterprises connect with customers, grow revenue and increase market share.

Today, some executives holding CIO positions possess no IT background. Whether this trend will continue is debatable. Those who think more business people will take over the CIO role point to outsourcing and shifting demographic trends to support their positions.

“We’re starting to see more and more CIOs who are not traditional technologists,” says Forrester’s Kark. “We estimate anywhere from 60 to 65 percent of CIOs still have a strong technology background, but that number has been decreasing over the years.”

IT Departments Will Remain a Breeding Ground for New CIOs

The changes IT departments are currently undergoing—spurred by outsourcing, cloud computing, shifting business demands and consumer technologies in the enterprise—are giving IT professionals the experiences they need today to be great CIOs tomorrow.

Consider the IT professionals at Ministry Health Care, a system of hospitals and clinics in Wisc. CIO Will Weider says a large pipeline of future IT leaders exists in his 250-person IT organization. If an IT leadership position were to open up inside his shop tomorrow, he says he has people “who could step in right away and be very effective.”

Weider says the changes that have taken place inside healthcare IT departments over the past 16 years have helped groom ambitious IT professionals for CIO roles. He notes that when he first became a healthcare CIO, IT’s mission was running billing and registration systems. Today, IT’s on the front lines, providing effective, high-touch healthcare to patients. “The skills [IT] people had before are no longer sufficient,” says Weider. “You can’t just support a system anymore. You have to lead a project, and if you’re leading a project, you’re essentially a manager of a team.”

Today, he says, the CIOs who rise through the ranks in IT are increasingly coming from business-facing IT functions, such as enterprise shared services, enterprise architecture, business relationship management, advanced product development, and sales and marketing IT. Part of the reason individuals in business-facing functions are increasingly moving into CIO positions is because they have the relationships with the executives who select the next CIOs. They’re also getting the exposure to the business that’s critical to be successful in the role.

Getting out of IT and into a business function, even just as a temporary stint before returning to IT, is beneficial for this next generation of CIOs.

See full artcile at.

ASOCIA Executives, a division of ASOCIA Group, is privately-held, global executive search and corporate executive development firm. Asocia Executives specializes in Information Technology, Healthcare and Diversity/Female, Senior-Level Executive Search.


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