If I were your company’s next CEO looking to hire your company’s next CIO (Chief Information Officer), here’s the kind of person I would be looking for:
1. Someone who cares more about our business than our data center. With the speed of change in technology, and the emerging opportunities to use it for strategic advantage, an aptitude for understanding and applying technology is no doubt an important trait. The leader of your IT organization must be able to articulate, educate and effectively deploy technology in the best interest of your business. The best technologies, however, are of limited value if solutions are not embedded deeply within your organization’s purpose and plans, or if stakeholders do not buy in on the benefits. All good organizations begin with “why?”, and the business or mission drives the “why” of technology, not vice versa. Alignment between business strategy and IT strategy is incredibly important when resources are limited and timing is of the essence.
2. Someone who cares more about people than projects. A repeatable, credible project management process, resulting in disciplined, in-scope delivery of well-tested solutions is the hallmark of an effective IT team. The important thing to remember, though, is that good people deliver, and weak ones do not. People want to work in teams where they are genuinely valued, where co-workers support and care about each other, and where they can see the positive impact of their work. If you start with people and culture, then build good project management and execution disciplines, the results will follow. The best processes and practices within a toxic work environment will produce temporary success at best, and even those achievements will be eroded over time by higher-than-necessary employee turnover.
3. Someone who cares more about learning than knowing. We IT folks like to be the experts. And if you are depending on us, you want us to be experts in functional areas not well-understood by other key leaders in the organization. Routinely, however, we find the IT environment changing at a pace which does not allow us to know everything about everything. IT leaders need to be lifelong learners with enough humility to (a) know when they need to ask for skills or advice from outside the organization, (b) be willing to admit weaknesses and failures in order to change and get better, and (c) network actively with internal stakeholders and external peers to ensure their organization is operating at peak performance.
I love the pace of change in the “tools of the trade” of IT, but I firmly believe the winners – from programmers and engineers through project managers and CIOs – understand and give proper attention to the relational and missional facets of the IT tools, projects, and solutions they are depending on to drive success.