December 4, 2017

A CIO Is a CIO Is a CIO?


Is the CIO you’re checking out for a client evolutionary or revolutionary? Are they a top, typical, or trailing performer in digitalization?

These are among the questions you should be addressing as you consider candidates for corporate clients. Just because the person you’re placing has been a CIO for one company doesn’t mean they’ve worked on the same kind of initiatives as the CIO of another company. What have this CIO’s mandates been? Who have they been reporting to? Are they tech-forward or business-forward?

The same kinds of questions have to be asked of a corporate client in the context of what they’re seeking in a candidate. How do they define the role of a CIO? Is the CIO strictly a tech implementer and problem solver, or has the role evolved into a business partner?

Here’s another piece of information to absorb: 95 percent of CIOs expect their jobs to change because of digitalization. This stat comes from research firm Gartner, which recently released the comprehensive 2018 CIO Agenda Report. What Gartner found this year can help direct the approach you’ll take with both CIOs and clients in search of CIOs.

While CIOs still have a mandate to deliver world-class IT, they’ll also have to become leaders of change, according to the report. As businesses grow and change, CIOs must do more than supply IT services. They must become experts in innovation management and talent development by controlling costs, improving processes, exploiting data, driving revenue, and scaling digital business.

In a press release, Gartner Vice President and distinguished analyst Andy Rowsell-Jones said, “The CIO’s role must grow and develop as digital business spreads, and disruptive technologies, including intelligent machines and advanced analytics, reach the masses. While delivery is still a part of the job, much greater emphasis is being placed on attaining a far broader set of business objectives.”

Here are some key takeaways from Gartner’s report:

  1. CIOs are routinely driving business outcomes in partnership with business leaders. Eighty-four percent of the CIOs surveyed say they are responsible for areas outside of traditional IT. Their roles are transitioning from controlling costs and engineering processes to driving revenue and exploiting data.
  2. A little more than a quarter of CIOs say their primary priority is growth — that is, using digitized products and services to drive new forms of revenue, business value, and customer engagement.
  3. Cybersecurity and artificial intelligence are tech trends that CIOs believe will significantly change how they will do their jobs in the future, while A.I., digital security, and the Internet of Things are deemed the most problematic to implement.

All that said, these findings have to be put in the context of where your client organization is, as well as where each CIO candidate is in their career.

Survey respondents were categorized as “top,” “typical,” and “trailing” performers in digitalization. The big news, obviously, comes from the top performers, but your client — whether a CIO or a company in need of a CIO — may not fall into that category. You can’t assume that an individual or organization is on the cutting edge.

When working with a CIO, research the organization they currently work for, the CEO of that organization, and, of course, the CIO themselves. Learn who the CIO reports to. Identify their priorities and the priorities of the CEO for which they work. Look at what the company’s executives are saying on earnings calls. Is the CEO calling out technology, innovation, and digital as investment priorities? Or is the focus primarily on cost-cutting? These things can give you a clue as to how you should focus your conversation for maximum relevance.

Do the same with your corporate client. It could also be that they’re strictly all about cost-cutting and efficiency or fixing problems — or somewhere in the middle. If a client is not focused on innovation, you need to be prepared to identify talent who can tackle whatever their priorities may be. Your research will give you the tools to be truly helpful to your clients as you look ahead to 2018.

Sharon Gillenwater is the founder and editor-in-chief of Boardroom Insiders, which maintains an extensive database of in-depth executive profiles.

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Sharon Gillenwater is the founder and editor-in-chief of Boardroom Insiders, which maintains an extensive database of the most in-depth executive profiles on the market, from Fortune 500 companies to independent nonprofits, to help executive search professionals achieve the best hires for clients. Gillenwater is a long-time marketing consultant with expertise in marketing strategy, account-based marketing, and CXO engagement programs.