A valuable learning tool for CIOs, this Idea draws upon the successes and experiences of 14 extraordinary Chief Information Officers from organizations including FedEx, Cisco, Time Warner and the US Department of Defence. Cross-referencing both personal characteristics and environmental factors universal to all 14 we can define and determine the skills needed to excel in this role.
What is it exactly that makes a Chief Information Officer (CIO) successful? Setting out to examine the factors that determine growth and acceleration in a CIO’s career, the authors of the white paper referenced here looked at both the personal characteristics of 14 CIOs, and the environmental factors that enabled them to seize and achieve opportunities for enduring success. At some point during their research, the term ‘Renaissance CIOs’ was coined to describe the list of candidates chosen, which included representatives from FedEx, Cisco, Time Warner, Merrill-Lynch and the US Department of Defence. Each had a special accomplishment in the form of a major project attributed to them during the course of their career; moreover, “every one of those projects was customer-facing.”
Focused interviews were conducted using a set of twelve open-ended conversation provoking questions, such as “what are the 2–3 things that are most important to you in your life—both professionally and otherwise?” At the conclusion of each interview, an unannounced 13th question was added: “what next?”
The results are divided into two sections: surface results and the common denominators of extraordinary success. Looking at the surface results first, there were a number of notable findings:
Looking at the common denominators of extraordinary success it becomes clear that all of the CIOs possessed the following ‘soft’ attributes, in varying but generally large measure:
Based on these results it is possible to suggest success factors, unique to the role of a CIO. The key is to become an effective, cross-functional team leader and then achieve your vision. Based on the common denominators of extraordinary success, a CIO is well-advised to work towards the following:
But the indispensable skill — the sine qua non — for all CIOs is to build highly effective cross-functional teams that go on to achieve extraordinary things often beyond what individual team members might have been able to do. This is what each Renaissance CIO has done, which has positioned them at the top of the CIO profession.
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