Work Your Way to the Top With These Tips
Interested in moving to the chief executive officer (CEO) slot once you’ve been chief information officer (CIO)? While not a completely standard route to the top of the firm, the CIO to CEO move is becoming more common, as the CEOs of Alcoa, First Data and numerous smaller companies attest.
The move to digital business, the Internet of Things, and the growing importance of Big Data, social media, and analytics have all fostered the increasing strength of the chief IT role, and put them in viable roles as players for the top spot.
But, as people who have made the move state, there’s a lot more at stake in the CEO role. As exciting an area as IT is, it’s still primarily concerned with keeping the organization at the cutting edge in technology and maintaining — or enhancing — cost-effectiveness.
While these roles are important, a CEO must be more concerned with revenue enhancement and strategic direction. The CEO role also includes story-telling for employees and stake-holders, articulating the mission and vision of a business. A CEO must interface with the board, potential customers, and the public.
How can CIOs take their careers to the top? Interviews in CIO suggest the following.
1. Become responsible for revenue generation
As important as IT functions are, it’s rare for an IT head to have responsibility for revenue generation. Organizations must have revenue and profit to survive, so revenue is the most crucial of all crucial functions.
Fortunately, there has never been a better time for CIOs to take the lead in revenue generation. Many have generated revenue through developing a new product or spinning off a digital version of an analogue product.
If your organizational responsibilities don’t include revenue generation, develop a method that will allow you to participate in it. Work with a startup business on the side. Establish a foothold in a profit-and-loss center. Serve as a consultant for new business.
2. Understand client needs
It’s all too common for IT departments to serve their organization. Indirectly, of course, that’s serving the organization’s clients. But it isn’t direct client experience.
CEOs need to understand the needs of their clients. Ambitious CIOs need to understand it, as well. Not only does it help them have excellent customer service, it can foster the development of innovative ideas about how to do things better, faster, or more competitively. That can help the client.
Here, too, it’s important to get exposure to clients and discuss their needs. Attend client-facing meetings. Delegate IT responsibilities so you have enough time to devote to client needs.
3. Develop a vision and a way of sharing it
CEOs are responsible for the corporate vision. They share it with key stakeholders, the public, and employees. They tell the story of the organization to motivate, engage, and spur loyalty and productivity.
Start with developing a vision for the IT department. Combine it with strategic direction. Articulate how the vision contributes to the strategy of the firm. Over time, share that vision by story-telling in multiple methods and stages.
Becoming a CEO is increasingly viable for CIOs given the increasing importance of digital business. These three strategies can help CIOs become CEOs.
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