May 31, 2012, 3:43 PM — In 2015, what skills will appear on job descriptions for Fortune 500 CIOs? I asked Peter High, author of World Class IT: Why Businesses Succeed When IT Triumphs, for a list of requirements.
First there are the table stakes. These start, High says, with an undergraduate degree in engineering or computer science. While there are a growing number of CIOs with liberal arts backgrounds, they're still in the minority, he points out. And while a CIO doesn't have to have spent all of their career in IT, they do need some experience managing the IT function--recently, given how dynamic technology is.
Other table stakes include:
- Vendor management experience, with at least some knowledge of how to develop outsourcing contracts that can be undone.
- A solid understanding of governance, for handling increasingly complex teams with internal and external resources. "CIOs need a solid background in the use of development lifecycles, [project management offices], and other key governance practices," High says.
- Financial expertise, from understanding the ROI on technology investments to knowing how amortization schedules change with cloud computing.
- Team leadership skills, including the humility to surround yourself with people smarter than you are and the foresight to groom your successors.
Next come the skills that raise the bar. The highlights of these start with an MBA, which isn't necessary, but does have its advantages. "It is important for CIOs to strike a balance between technology skills and the exposure to the discipline that an MBA brings," High says.
Other traits that High believes will provide a leg up:
- Experience with corporate ups and downs, and with acquisitions and divestitures. Not everyone has to have gone through Chapter 11 or integrated a multi-billion dollar enterprise, but going through similar situations provides "a fuller arsenal of experience."
- Exposure to external customers, which has been common in technology companies, but is becoming important now in a wider array of industries, High says.
- Proven ability to innovate, because "CIOs operate as the central nervous system of the corporation and often have the vantage point to see opportunities for innovation before other executives, whether that innovation is IT driven or not."
- Consulting experience, which High notes, "suggests that candidates are familiar with a variety of environments and have a solid set of tools they can draw from to answer tough questions."
And the following skills make a CIO candidate a no-brainer to hire: