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The Challenges Facing Today's CIOs

Chris Chandler

18 September 2017

by Chris Chandler

( Words)

Many digital leaders face barriers to business transformation. Here are some of the biggest.

Mechanical engineer, neuroscientist and CIO; just a few of the former roles on the resume of Dr. Robina Chatham. Today, Robina is a business coach and author, specialising in mentoring and motivating senior leaders to achieve their full potential in some of the world’s most exciting organisations.

Understanding our clients’ challenges is a priority for the team at La Fosse Associates. So we were delighted to invite Robina to La Fosse HQ to discuss the common struggles she sees CIOs face in her line of work and how, as consultants, we can help overcome them.

1. The changing focus of IT
In the past, the challenge was getting technology to work. Today, it’s about transforming organisations. IT is no longer just a service, it’s a strategic function that is disrupting entire industries. Senior IT leaders are tasked with driving this disruptive digital agenda and they need the right talent to help them do it.

2. Balancing pioneers and pragmatists
When IT was new, there were no rules or methodology. It was experimental work which attracted pioneers and rule breakers. As time and tech moved on, IT became about safety and security and this attracted pragmatists and rule followers. Now challenged to innovate, the industry now faces a shortage of pioneers and an overload of pragmatists. Essential systems still need to run seamlessly of course, so CIOs need to recruit or develop the right balance of people, and create an environment that suits different preferences.

3. Identifying future leaders
Businesses derive value from IT at four potential levels;

1. Leadership
2. Partnership
3. Collaboration
4. Transaction

Most CIOs are skilled at identifying collaboration and transaction qualities in IT staff; these strengths focus on the now and have an inside-out perspective. But many find it hard to identify leadership and partnership qualities; these strengths focus on the future, are proactive and have an outside-in perspective. CIOs need to ensure they have worked out which levels they want candidates to operate at and that they are assessing competence at each level to the right extent.

4. Finding skills for the 21st century
Introducing new technology into the IT function can be fast and frequent with the right budget. But getting the team to embrace it can take years. As a result, many IT teams are currently working with a 20th century mindset. Find an IT professional with these four skills to lead them and you’ll help the IT function progress into the 21st century and keep pace with the tools they use.

1. Personal power; being strong, confident, honest, liked and respected.
2. Courage and confidence to challenge the status quo.
3. The drive, initiative and outside-in curiosity to be an early adopter and experiment
4. A triple deep skill set; digital IQ to know the tech, business IQ to understand its place and emotional intelligence to manage people.

5. Waiting for the right fit
Filling a vital IT function with the wrong fit is counterproductive and can put the department back by as much as 9 months. Recruitment coaching can help CIOs improve their interviewing technique, and improve their induction processes to ensure that the right fit fits in properly from the start.

About Robina

Robina qualified as both a Mechanical Engineer and Neuroscientist. She started her career in the shipbuilding industry, where she pioneered the introduction of computing to the shop floor. Robina subsequently followed a career in IT, which culminated in the position of European CIO for a leading merchant bank.

In 1996, Robina joined Cranfield School of Management as a Lecturer in Management Information Systems, where she created the acclaimed and in some cases life-changing programme: Organisational Politics and IT Management.

Robina now runs her own consultancy and training company, and is also a Visiting Fellow at Cranfield School of Management and a Research Associate for the LEF (Leading Edge Forum). Her prime focus is on helping senior managers to develop political acumen, to master the art of influencing others, and hence increase their personal impact at board level. Other areas of specialism include the building of high-performance teams and relationship management.

Where to next?

Learn more about how we can help with our Talent Strategy practice for high-growth businesses.

Read more about tips and advice for CIO's:

Beyond Keeping the Lights On: Why CIOs Need to Think Like Investors

Higher Education CIOs: What can we learn from Covid-19?

Constructing Innovation: Why it's a Revolution from Below, with Interim CIO Chris Billimore