CIO to CEO: Barriers and Success Factors

Today’s Chief Information Officers have a real shot at becoming CEO.

Today’s Chief Information Officers have a real shot at becoming CEO, according to new research that identified more than 100 such leaders in North America. Particularly as technology becomes as central to business strategy as it is to operations, boards have good reason to consider their CIOs as their next chief executive.

The attributes of those who have stepped into the top job is examined in depth in the new white paper, “CIO to CEO: Barriers and Success Factors,” published by the CIO Association of Canada and Ryerson University. Contributing to the project were Korn/Ferry partners John Mealia, Mark Polansky, and Bob Concannon of the IT Officers Practice.

Drawing on interviews with 29 CEOs, the paper identifies the key factors that contributed to their ascension from CIO. In terms of work experience, initial success as CIO allowed them to take on firm-wide responsibilities and develop a broader business focus. The environment of the company or organization also mattered: typically these were mature firms with strong IT governance, and a place where the IT executive could find strong mentors.

But it is the personal skills, not the technological ones that are the differentiators for CIOs looking to move up. Communication skills, building relationships, developing talent, and motivating others were cited most often as important personal attributes. Understanding the business and focusing on the customer were also highlighted as important.

The second half of the paper details the implications for executives in IT today with a thoughtful discussion on how to manage a CIO career, including developing the specific skills and knowledge that lead to credibility and expanded opportunity.

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