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Three Key Skills That Will Define A Successful, Modern CIO

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Being a CIO today is more about aligning a holistic view of technology – including the people who use it and the data it produces – with the business.

By Hemal Shah

According to Gartner’s 2018 CIO Agenda survey, 95% of CIOs expect their jobs to change or be ‘remixed’ due to digitalization. An increasing emphasis on becoming a change leader is expected to be matched by the assumption of additional, broader responsibilities and a switch in focus away from the delivery of IT.

The metamorphosis of the CIO is underway.

As we have seen, being a CIO today is more about aligning a holistic view of technology – including the people who use it and the data it produces – with the business: overseeing people, processes and applications within a company’s IT ecosystem so that its collective outcomes support and inform the business’ goals. Gone are the days in which IT is viewed as a back-end support function, separate from the rest of the business.

In addition to managing the IT infrastructure – including policy and practice development, planning, budget, resourcing and training – the CIO is also expected to contribute to higher profits and business transformation. With technology at the core of modern businesses, today’s CIO is positioned to drive and enable better results for the company and its customers.

In that context, there are three essential attributes that the successful, modern CIO of today must have in their armoury:


The CIO today is a communicator, catalyst, collaborator, enabler, facilitator. CIOs are expected to provide the coherence, guidance and forethought in areas of technology adoption and leadership, providing business-rooted reasoning and counsel for teams across the company. Beyond their fundamental accountability to company stakeholders, CIOs also need to facilitate conversations among developers, data scientists and other IT specialists to constantly improve the delivery and scope of their company’s latest products and services.

Where they were once primarily concerned with managing the delivery of technology, CIOs today are focused more on pushing the boundaries of their company by introducing and inspiring innovation, and driving-up performance capabilities.

Skills Development and Talent Retention

Successful digital transformation is not just about technology: upskilling the people who will interact with that technology, and retooling processes in parallel, will complete the transformation-combination – and help to enable faster time-to-market, new revenue-generating business models and organisational efficiencies. One example: as the benefits of digitalization are understood, the CIO’s team will face increasing demand for both consultancy and enablement: here, it will be imperative that they are fluent not only in systems and applications but also in the wider needs and business priorities of the teams that they are supporting.

Companies also expect the CIO to help ensure that all employees are trained on and productive with the latest technology being implemented. Frustration is never far away when team members feel that they do not have access to the right tools for success. By keeping an open ear, focusing on the user-experience and placing an emphasis on the necessary empowerment, CIOs can help to attract and retain talent while maximizing productivity.


The ability to measure, benchmark and replicate success is essential as CIOs are assessed on the progress of the business’ digital transformation plans. Of course, this means defining a clear set of KPIs up-front, and returning to them regularly – relentlessly – so that the transformation journey can be seen and understood in real-time, with course-corrections made in a timely fashion.

The CIO must have a finger firmly on this pulse: how is the ‘digital health’ of the organization developing (i.e. how much revenue is coming in via digital channels? Is each functional group contributing to digital initiatives?)? Is the business attracting new customers – and are its customers increasingly satisfied with their experiences, across a range of touch-points (and are they changing their buying-behaviours accordingly)? Is time-to-market for new products accelerating? Are new revenue-streams coming in to play from digital products and services?

Such business-based metrics will be vital in justifying current and future investments to the CEO and the board – and providing necessary insights into areas that need greater focus. The business will look to the CIO to paint this overall picture, and successfully articulate the value of company-wide digital transformation initiatives.

Here’s, then, to the transformative CIO: truly an ‘MVP’ to the whole business, whose mission encompasses nurturing talent, fostering innovation, bringing on new sources of revenue, and building the platforms that energize customers both inside and outside the organization. The CIO is a lynchpin for us all.

The author is SVP & Regional CIO, Dell Technologies.


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