Play it safe and you'll never deliver anything that provides a real advantage; too close to the bleeding edge and you'll get everything messy while the business units are trying to use what you've built to actually do their work.
3. Become immersed in the global geopolitical ecosystem
CEOs of global companies have to build relationships with governments, regulators and shareholders in many countries. CIOs should be able to do so as well, especially for tech-heavy projects or new businesses. That requires a comfort level and familiarity with more than one part of the world. Not a great strength for most Americans.
4. Be willing to scrap old business models
More a privilege of the CEO than the CIO, but IT enables almost any change. If you can't make information, data and workers agile enough to shift gears or change directions, you're holding up the works, not helping them move more effectively.
5. Be able to innovate your way into productivity gains
Agility, productivity, efficiency are the keys to making an existing business model work better. Make end users more effective and the business units will be more effective; make business units more effective and the company overall will improve. Don't wait to be asked.
6. Take governance seriously
Infrastructure isn't just the stuff in the walls anymore. IT is as key a part of the operations of a big company as Finance or Manufacturing. Ninety-percent of what goes on in any well-managed organization is routine. Create and document procedures for all the routine stuff; it will make compliance, training and budgeting easier. Build in short-cuts for the 10 percent that are emergencies, rush jobs or responses to the unexpected. Creating routines is good; being stuck in ruts is bad.
7. Have a purpose
Being the one in a board meeting who can define TLA, or say whether iPhones will or won't work with your Salesforce.com apps isn't enough to justify your seat there. CIOs have to be able to contribute new concepts, new business ideas, demonstrate a real grasp of the finance and logistics the rest of the company struggles with, and own issues that affect the whole company but strike IT first – customer privacy, compliance, technology risk, information security.