There's a lot of discussion these days on the seemingly endless expansion of the C-suite. It's a complex debate - and there's much to be said on both sides. But I see this as one aspect of the larger CIO transformation to strategic business leader.

Because there is a very real downside for an executive suite that includes a CIO, a CDO (of either flavor), and a CAO. That's a lot of leaders, a lot of overlapping teams, and a potential for an increase - rather than a decrease - in costly enterprise silos.

With the continuing CIO transformation, are other C-level leaders needed?
With the continuing CIO transformation, are other C-level leaders needed?

That's why I found Intel Corp CIO Kim Stevenson's comment, “If you need all those C-suite roles, you probably don’t have the right CIO,” pretty compelling.

She goes on to make the very interesting point that, “The CIO role is unique in that it is defined differently across companies and industries. No two CIOs’ positions are the same, unlike chief financial officers, legal officers, and other C-suite roles,” says Stevenson.

That's certainly true. In my own work as a CIO resume writer and executive career coach, I've found a tremendous range in duties, responsibilities - and personalities - among equally successful CIOs. There are significant differences in leadership style, focus, and level of direct technical involvement.

But one thing I haven't found is either the lack of skill or the lack of ability to drive enterprise wide digital transformation among leading CIOs. But - too often - those very CIOs may not present their real capabilities as clearly and compellingly as necessary to be seen as major players in the development and execution of critical enterprise strategies.

While this has been changing for the last several years, the tendency for the CIO to be seen as the executive who "keeps the lights on" still remains - even in some large companies.

And it's up to the CIO to change that - by communicating a clear strategic vision and by collaborating closely with other C-level executives - a point discussed at length in the article - to ensure that IT is not only fully aligned with business objectives, but is a clear partner in continuing to drive those objectives. Of course, CIOs are busy. Really busy. And the range of responsibilities can create a genuine lack of time. But - no matter how busy a CIO may be - he or she has to make the time to forge real, productive, and collaborative relationships with other members of the executive team - or risk being sidelined. And having some critical influence transferred to other, newer C-level titles.

In my experience, CIOs have been working to have a real, clear, and important voice in strategic decision making for several years.

And I believe very strongly that the time has come from the CIO to step and be recognized as the leader across enterprise technology - whether that's ensuring critical backend or customer facing systems, or driving the transition to a fully digital enterprise.

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