What Should a CEO Look for in a CIO?

What to look forWhat Should a CEO look for in a CIO

You should use the same decision criteria you would with proper "architecture" principles
- How will this new addition fit with the current team?
- How will their experience fit into corporate culture?
- How will their execution capabilities fit into corporate goals and objectives?
- Will this person be willing to stand up in front of a large crowd of executives and tell them what's needed and provide reasonable options for getting there?

As I've mentioned in previous posts I believe that in order for a CIO to be outstanding they have to be much like a CEO. The IT function is often times a mirror of the larger organization. There are teams or application groups that are focused on lines of business or certain business functions (I.e., Engineering or Marketing). Because IT is like a small version of the enterprise it's critical for the CIO to be Common Visionable to tie these groups together in a common vision. Only by tying the groups together can the CIO expect to deliver on broader cross functional corporate opportunities.

Building a vision for the entire IT organization that helps everyone understand how they fit into the bigger enterprise puzzle is crucial to team moral and to limiting intergroup competition or infighting. Building a vision isn't easy, but the CIO is more likely to be successful if s/he makes it a team effort. Getting your reports and their reports involved in the effort will help to ensure buy in and it's an automatic way to contribute to the communication of the plan. The vision should demonstrate how each vertical when working together contributes to making a successful enterprise objective. An opposite example might be something like the Marketing group building a great lead candidate DB, but not realizing that they could be pulling information from the call center and or providing information directly to the CRM solution. IT must be in a position to bridge that gap and no individual IT function can do that it takes the entire team. 

Key things to remember here from a CEO's perspective:

  • Include the CIO in ALL exec functions
  • Expect your CIO to act as an enterprise exec, not an IT exec (must still have a solid IT background)
  • Hire a CIO with the same due diligence that the board used to hire you
  • Solicit the CIO to help cross boundaries of functions to ensure a common vision for enterprise IT deliverables can be communicated to the rest of IT

Key things to remember from a CIO's perspective:

  • You're not a technologist first, but you must be strong enough in technology to deal with the highest level partners and to intelligently argue direction with direct staff
  • Lead by example. The CEO's job is to help set and communicate company vision, and to enable his/her team to get their job done, the CIO must do the same. The CEO also has significant customer communication requirements, you're role is no different.
  • Don't hesitate to use your team. You don't have to have all the ideas, you just have to show that you can effectively implement them.
  • AlCommon Vision 2l of our team (VPs to Helpdesk) need to be on the same page. If a customer stops anyone from IT in the hall and asks "what's IT working on", they should all have the same answer.

There's no way to guarantee that you'll hire the right person for the job, but at least you'll have a fighting chance if you treat to objective with the strategic vision it deserves


Wonderful article. I agree

Wonderful article. I agree that it is imperative, that the  CIO has an IT background otherwise the vision coming to the  the IT department will be blurred and limited. The CIO will not be able to speak the language of the IT department and will make wrong decisions. Moreover if the CIO has no Project management background, like real hands on project management then that is another negative.

Vinod Thaker, PMP, CSM

West Des Moines, Iowa