On this very day back in 2008 I took my first role as an Editor in the CIO community. Ever since that cold wet January day I have been honoured to be allowed an incredible insight into the lives and organisations that CIOs are leading. Weekly CIO interviews, coffees and lately podcast recordings has allowed me to see the role develop over the last 10 years.
Whether it is walking a ward, car production line, supermarket aisle, contact centre, warehouse, academic institute, bank trading floor, stately home or being shot at on Salisbury Plain it has been an amazing journey and I hope we can all work together for another 10 years.
The list article has been largely wrecked by sloppy usage that shows little to no respect for the audience. But it can be a useful format for conveying information. Below are 10 observations of the CIO and CTO community from my decade amongst you.
1: CIO is a major management role
This may sound like the most obvious and ridiculous starting point, but it continues to amaze me that after 10 years there are many that still do not understand that being a CIO is first and foremostly a senior management role. All too often I hear suppliers focus on their technology and how it would make a CIO “great”. Still too many suppliers do not focus on the needs of the business the CIO is part of. You see these traits in the headlines, tweets and presentations and I have had the dubious luxury of seeing them in the pitch meeting. All leave a sour taste.
In the last decade I have witnessed CIOs in every sector demonstrate a deep understanding and passion for the business concerns of that vertical. Therefore it is no surprise to me that we see a growing number of CIOs become Chief Operating Officers (COO).
Do well by a CIO and you will be on the receiving end of fantastic loyalty. Whether you are a team member, supplier or a mere Editor, the loyalty CIOs show is outstanding. In my career as a journalist I have worked in sport, automotive, local news, broadcasting and academia and none of these communities showed the loyalty a CIOs gives to a team member or supplier that has done their very best in challenging circumstances. Give your best, always strive for quality and be responsive and the CIO community will back you.
Sometimes a conversation with a CIO can be gruelling, they ask as many questions back as you do as the reporter in the room. But it is a curiosity that is the lifeblood of why CIOs have moved up the organisational agenda. Without that curiosity how else can CIOs understand the potential or opportunity for digital disruption? Just recently former Army CIO Alan Hill was brimming with interest as he talked to astrophysicists in my company, it is a delight to be on the edge of these conversations.
Given what the economy and technology has been through in 10 years a CIO has to be energetic. But it an energy not only for the job, but also an energy for life. It is one of the hardest roles in the organisation, yet CIOs find time and fuel to be on the boards of schools, arts organisations, run sports clubs and be significant competitors at a wide range of sports from sailing and rugby to triathlon. If you don’t believe me, come and join the CIO Cycle rides!
5: Team players
Whether with their own teams or the CIO community, CIOs always support the team. The CEO of one of the major search organisations once told me I was operating in the best section of the C-suite as CIOs will always collaborate. And he was entirely right. I have seen CIOs of major rivals in fiercely competitive sectors share advice, contacts and best practice. And on my many visits to the organisations CIOs lead, almost every CIO is proud to show off their team, introduce team members and make sure that although I may be writing or broadcast about them, the success we are discussing is down to the team.
6: Team builders
Which leads on to how the CIO has become a team builder. Over the last decade we have seen a major change in the technology deployed in the organisation, as on-premise moved to the cloud, as one-stop-shop deals for a recession made way for an ecosystem of suppliers. This decade of change has meant that a CIO only survived if they had the right team to adapt to and deploy the strategies needed to modernise or meet changing consumer needs. I know CIOs who have said the hardest bit about changing roles is leaving behind a great team, even though they know that is the key part of their role. It goes back to that loyalty.
The UK CIO community is becoming more diverse and over the last 10 years I have been in a luxurious position to see that change taking place. Much more work needs to be done, that is clear. But the changing needs of organisations is naturally helping diversity and despite the shouty behaviour of some, there are many in the CIO community who are committed to helping improve the diversity of organisations. Diversity is more than just about gender too, all areas of diversity must be improved and I implore you to step forwards and take part in the Horizon CIO podcasts and events, not because of your diversity, but because you are business technology leaders.
Over this last decade the rate of change in technology has meant that the most transformative CIOs are those that can tell the story of ‘the art of the possible’. As technology changes the way consumers act, the way the organisation operates; so the need for the CIO to explain at board and shop floor level how processes will change has become critical. It is why diversity is improving, why the team builder CIO and the energetic CIO have risen to the fore.
By the end of 2008 the UK and global economy was in tatters as a result of the financial crisis. During that year and beyond the CIO community has demonstrated time and time again that it can help organisations reduce costs, improve service, protect margins and respond to austerity. This is the case for every vertical market. Over the last 10 years CIOs in local and central government have protected services on drastically reducing budgets, CIOs in retail, media and travel have responded to the largest single change in consumer behaviour; financial services CIOs have worked through a decade of new compliance demands and healthcare CIOs are using their understanding of technology to help society respond to an aging society prone to more disease.
When I joined the CIO community there was much talk amongst “experts” that CIOs and IT departments were not aligned to the needs and the strategy of the organisation. You could not make that same statement today. CIOs are part of the discussion from the start now and the development of co-location by leading CIOs has ensured that technologists are hard to spot in an organisation, they are so blended with their peers.
Thank you all for your support since 2008 and with the Horizon CIO podcast and live events going from strength to strength, I look forward to seeing how the community develops over the next decade.