The New New CIO Role: Big Changes Ahead

By Thomas Wailgum, CIO |  Career, CIO role

CIOs know all about change management--from jettisoning legacy apps, to prodding line of business VPs to share virtualized resources.

But today, CIOs themselves are in the midst of a make-or-break personal change-management project: CIOs who can only take orders, who can't speak the language of the business, who can't step out of the proverbial back-office and into the front lines of customer service, social media or supply chain management will soon go the way of ancient tech gear--remembered fondly on occasion but sidelined in the future.

Simply put, there is no future for the "order-taking, looking only for efficiencies" type of CIO: Change or be ousted. "Do not expect IT value from a CIO with an operational profile," proclaims a 2010 KPMG report. Chris Potts, an IT strategist and author of FruITion, says "the big game in town now has moved on from efficiency--although that is still important--to how everybody exploits IT to create value and what that does for a company's investment plans and the changes that [the company] makes."

CIOs are not oblivious to their decades-long struggle: They know they need to be more "strategic." And they're certainly sick of hearing about "business-IT alignment." Has there ever been another department so ruthlessly grilled about the value it is (or is not) delivering?

But facts are facts. Those perceptions of the CIO who doesn't get the business big picture still linger today.

The CIO extreme makeover necessitated right now isn't a mere cosmetic rehab, however. It will demand a mighty effort from those IT leaders whose comfort zone involves four walls, lots of servers and voluminous air-conditioning.

In fact, say CIOs and IT strategists interviewed for this article, a CIO who wants to transform must concentrate effort in four key areas. We'll call them the "4 P's": Perception, Profile, Participation and Performance. Each is critical to understand, analyze and explore. Those CIOs who've nailed the "New New CIO" role--and all four of the "P's"--say the job demands much, but can be unlike any other out there.

"The CIO role is a very exciting role to play in when you don't think about it as an all-technology role, but when you think about it as a business leader role," says Wayne Shurts, CIO of grocery giant SuperValu. "You're a part of the strategic leadership team; you're on the inside of all the issues to help the company win today, tomorrow and the next decade."

Do You Really Want to Be CIO?

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