Opinion

Leaders and CIOs

Mark McDonald, PhD is Group Vice President, Head of Research for Gartner Executive Programmes and a Gartner Fellow

Channel partners are used to being part of formal vendor programmes. But CIOs today also face informal career and skill qualification hurdles as they wrestle with challenges faced by their business. Gartner’s Mark McDonald explains the mindset of today’s CIO and a forum helping peer to peer networking.

A CIO is a leader when they are able to not only deliver current results, with today’s resources and priorities, but also make decisions that keep existing options open and create new opportunities for their enterprise. This requires a CIO leader to understand both technology, but more importantly the application of technology to people, the way they work, the company’s culture and its capabilities.  A leader finds ways to make the organisation better by removing issues today and amplifying the organisation’s strengths and ambitions.

Today CIOs face challenges across three fronts: organisational, technology and business.  

Organisationally, CIOs face a major skills challenge.  Getting the right people with the right skills into IT is a persistent issue for CIOs.  Traditionally this has been thought of as a sourcing issue — in other words I can buy the skills I need either by hiring people away from other companies or hiring an IT outsourcing firm. That approach was sufficient in an environment of relatively stable skills and workforce requirements.  Unfortunately new technologies are raising demand for new skills that simply do not exist in the market. CIOs need to face this challenge by leading their organisation in developing those critical skills in house, rather than waiting for a market to emerge.  

Technology and the pace of technological change is another challenge. The pace of technological change has always been rapid, but it is getting even faster as the number of people inventing new applications and technologies has exploded.  Social media, mobile applications, analytics and the internet have dramatically accelerated the pace of technology innovation.  Cloud services have reduced the barriers to bringing these services to a global market creating new sources of competition for CIOs and IT. CIOs need to understand both the nature and source of new technologies and technical innovations to provide the leadership and guide the organisation to apply the solutions that make the most sense today and in the future.  

Business challenges set the context for the CIO as they reflect the resources, priorities and requirements for agility.  Clearly business challenges both economically, geo-politically and industry wise require CIOs to have a degree of certainty in executing current plans but ever increasing levels of flexibility to response to changes in business. Many of these changes can be positive, for example growth, an acquisition opportunity, new products or services.  Here CIOs cannot say, wait until I finish this and then we can take advantage of those business changes.  Rather they need to flow their priorities, their people and their attention to finish what is needed and fulfil the promise associated with change.  

The CIO Leadership forum is unique in the sense that it enables CIOs to address the challenges mentioned above in their unique but interrelated ways.  First, the leadership forum gives CIOs and IT leaders the ability to hear from Gartner analysts on the business and technology issues shaping the future.  Gartner speaks from a global perspective to bring the technology insights to CIOs.  Second, the CIO Leadership forum recognizes the importance of peer-to-peer interaction as it contains interactive sessions around issues that matter to IT today and the business in the future.  Finally, the opportunity to work one-on-one with a Gartner analyst on your specific issues in your context provides valuable insight and acceleration to your ideas and plans.

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