The new CIO charter

CIOs’ expanding management and revenue-generation responsibilities are cementing their roles as business leaders. Traditional technologists need not apply.

Nathan Rogers doesn’t have a background in coding or computer science. He’s spent little career time mapping IT infrastructure or understanding system architecture. Yet Rogers, with an MBA and a resume loaded with business development and accounting experience, isn’t the head of finance or operations. Instead, he serves as senior vice president and CIO at SAIC, leading the technology integrator’s IT modernization and digital transformation efforts.

Despite a lack of formal technical training, Rogers contends he has the right stuff to succeed in the modern CIO role. Specifically, his background in orchestrating mergers and acquisitions and years of doing business development strategy exposed him to areas such as business process improvement, optimization and system modernization—all crucial competencies for today’s CIOs. “The CIO role is changing, and that’s why I was a natural fit,” Rogers says. “Some CIOs come in and have to learn the business. I had to catch up on all the technology.”

As the top IT leadership position continues to shift away from a pure technology focus to more of a business strategist and transformational role, CIO competencies and characteristics are beginning to align with what’s expected from mainstream executive management: deep industry knowledge, robust communication and management skills, and an intrinsic understanding of how to run a profitable business. Many fast-track CIOs have been immersed in this metamorphosis for some time. What’s accelerating is recognition in the C-suite and among line of business (LOB) leaders that the CIO is well positioned to not just spearhead technology initiatives but also drive technology-enabled innovation and digital transformation across the entire business.

By the numbers

According to CIO.com’s 2020 State of the CIO survey, 91 percent of IT leaders and 59 percent of LOB respondents see the CIO’s role becoming more digital and innovation focused. Moreover, 89 percent of CIOs and 56 percent of LOB respondents say the CIO is more involved in leading digital transformation initiatives compared to their business counterparts—a characterization made by only 47 percent of LOB respondents in last year’s survey.

CIOs are also more likely to self-identify as a business strategist or change management leader. Nearly half of IT leaders (46%) see themselves as a transformational CIO, with close to a third (29%) embracing business strategist responsibilities. Only a quarter view oversight over functional areas such as security and improving IT operations as their primary focus.

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