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Change is coming to CIO role
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Change is coming to CIO role 

No one expected the CIO to think about how to utilize technology to drive the company forward. In today’s world, the CIO’s role has changed dramatically. Chris Jasper, a senior business advisor, shared his views on what CIOs need to do to stay relevant amidst constant technological changes.

“The Chief Information Officer should be the champion for leveraging technology – and the information it utilizes – for the benefit of the organization’s business functions,” Jasper asserted. “To that end, s/he must understand at some level what each division within the company is seeking to accomplish while also being able to comprehend the relationships between those goals. This is analogous to the role of the CFO understanding the financial needs and results of each business unit in order to create an effective financial strategy that serves the entire organization.”

The senior business advisor offered an example from his 20 years of experience in working with organizations to implement and optimize technology to achieve their goals. “One of the most effective CIOs with whom I had the pleasure to work had a great way of approaching her peers in the business divisions,” he recalled. “She would say to them, ‘Tell me what you want to achieve and I will help you find the best way to get it done.’ That was a perfect opening for her to serve as liaison to the technical solutions that would support their business needs without threat of taking the business operations into the CIO’s own domain.”

Jasper believes that CIOs and candidates for the role should possess a broad and diverse skill set. He commented that there is no single formula for success. “There will always be different skills, experience, and attributes that are appropriate depending on the company size, industry, and function,” he said. “I contend there are certain skills that are universally valuable for any C-level executive to possess in order to be effective such as leadership, communication, and vision. I expect a CIO to have these as a foundation.”

“In addition to being an effective leader, the CIO needs a thorough understanding of the value of technology that is utilized by the organization, or which should be put in use,” Jasper added. He differentiated between value and cost, explaining that cost refers to how much money you spend on an item or service and value denotes the usefulness of that good or service to the organization. “Consider the less common technologies that are differentiated by an organization’s purpose: specialized research and trend analysis for an investment advisor; statistical modeling engines for scientists and actuaries; 3D rendering and modeling for architects and engineers,” Jasper remarked. “The CIO who gets to know and understand the business functions is better equipped to lead the technology strategies that will return the greatest value for money spent.”

Creative thinking and problem solving are two more important skills for CIOs to possess, Jasper opined. “There is something to be said for the approach of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” he acknowledged. “But lacking creativity in devising forward-looking solutions can leave a CIO blind to opportunities for enhancing business productivity, reducing costs, and providing career development channels for staff members.”

Jasper urged CIOs and IT professionals seeking career growth in the industry to foster the need for change. “The corporate tendency to do what is ‘safe’ based on long-standing practices runs counter to the speed at which the Information age is progressing,” he commented. “The CIO who can demonstrate creative, effective solutions for enhancing the value of technology to achieve business goals is going to be the leader in driving change. “

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