Will Today's Transformational CIOs Become Future CEOs?

Neil Jarvis, CIO, Fujitsu America
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Neil Jarvis, CIO, Fujitsu America

In this age of digital transformation, every company should consider themselves a technology company if they’re committed to long-term success. As technology pushes forward, it has had profound impacts on every aspect of business, even prompting some organizations to change the way they’re structured. With IT as the backbone of every company, the role of the CIO has now become more about driving efficiency for overall business goals and less about keeping the lights on. The consumerization of IT and the increased dependence on cloud technology have provided opportunities for CIOs to become more business relevant across their organization, allowing them to keep up with the times by being catalysts, not just observers, to the transformation we’re seeing unfold. Transformational CIOs have found that in addition to using their knowledge of the technology sector, their business savvy and overall big-picture thinking can in fact push them towards the path of success and even put them in line for the role of a CEO.

Want to drive innovation, success and pave your path toward being the head of your company? Here are a few tips for CIOs looking to go beyond being transformational.

Technology Does All the Heavy Lifting, but Don’t Let It Carry All the Weight

Nowadays, most commercially available mobile devices are powerful enough to handle the technology requirements of an array of jobs, so companies need to look beyond the technology in recommending a solution that will also deliver efficiency and practicality. As an example, picture an organization that is looking to equip its in-the-field employees with mobile devices. They’re definitely going to need a reliable, versatile device that’s made with indestructible materials so it’s able to withstand all of the elements out on the field. On paper, this option sounds like a great recommendation. However, in assessing how the employees will use the device, their environment and the other items they may need to carry while out on the job, you realize that recommending a device that’s 30-pounds is totally impractical! This example clearly illustrates why it’s imperative for CIOs to look at the bigger picture and understand every aspect of how a new technology is going to be used throughout the organization. In thinking beyond the technology, you can select a tailored long-term solution that will work as well in practice as it does in theory–without all the literal and figurative baggage.

  Transformational CIOs may truly dictate the direction of major trends and business decisions moving forward 

It’s All about Perception: Be More Than a Technology Partner

CEOs need to think about the overall trajectory of their businesses in terms of strategic direction and goals. Transformational CIOs should think in a similar way. Let’s use basketball as an analogy. If one person has a courtside seat and another person has a seat in the middle of the arena, who do you feel will have a better view of the game? One may say the individual sitting courtside has a better view, but I would argue to the contrary. Their view is quite limited and being so close and deeply involved in the action can impact their overall experience of the game. Now when thinking about the person seated in the middle of the arena, this individual has a broader view and can assess the crowd’s reaction, see the entire court, view the overhead stats–this person can speak to the whole experience. This analogy holds true to being a transformational CIO. You need to be able to understand the bigger picture and think in many ways like a CEO. Instead of recommending a shiny new technology that may or may not suit your overall business needs, you may instead want to have a full understanding of the business strategy and future goal, so that the technology you recommend aligns with where your company is headed.

Go Off the Beaten Path: Become a Cross Sector Business Expert

Every CIO should start their career in the technology sector, take on a business role and then return to a position centered on technology. It’s important to be a financial and business expert, as well as being a forward-thinking technology leader. You have to be business minded and any new CIO of the future will need to have those skills in order to drive their company towards success. CEOs in the new digital world may well be pulled from the technology arena rather than the traditional business arena.

With keen business skills and an eye for technology, some of the world’s largest organizations may be led by CEOs who were once transformational CIOs. We are living in the digital economy and the transformational CIO may truly dictate the direction of major trends and business decisions moving forward.

The role of the CIO is crucial and as the technology sector continues to evolve, CIOs will need to step back and step up for true success. With their business needs top of mind and a pulse on the industry they are serving, success is imminent and before you know it, you will find yourself acting as a transformational CIO and positioning yourself to becoming the head of an organization.

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