Non-IT skills to gain priority among next-gen CIOs

Today's hybrid IT environments mean future IT chiefs will look to ground themselves in legal and regulatory know-how before focusing on tech-related aspects of their job scope, one exec suggests.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

Enterprises are increasingly relying on a mix of on-premise, private and public cloud infrastructure to provide for their IT needs. This, in turn, may eventually result in future chief information officers (CIOs) having to be educated in legal and regulatory compliance skills ahead of technical proficiency.

According to Lionel Lim, Asia-Pacific and Japan president at CA Technologies, technical competency is no longer sufficient for CIOs to do their jobs well. While the concept of an all-rounded CIO may not have been well-received previously--as these executives appear to "jack of all trades but master of none"--this perception will change, he predicted.

This change in mindset is driven by the increasing uptake of hybrid cloud deployments and offshoring practices and backup, Lim noted. These new IT methodologies mean IT heads will need to have a thorough understanding of the regulations and legal ramifications of handling corporate data, user privacy and data protection --all crucial assets CIOs must have, he said.

In addition to a more complex IT environment, the rise of consumerization has resulted in employees bringing in consumer-grade IT devices and services into the workplace, which causes CIOs to be well-versed in balancing meeting workers' needs with maintaining data integrity and compliance, Lim stressed.

He also called on the next generation of CIOs to be competent in sourcing for services and negotiating the right service-level agreement (SLA) for the company. These are essential skills for managing cloud services as a supply chain feature, which ultimately drives business service innovation too, he explained.

CIOs as change agents
Lyon Poh, partner of management consulting at KPMG, concurred. He noted that cloud computing has brought about the "rage of everything-as-a-service" and CIOs will have to up their overall commercial savvy in dealing with parties both inside and out of the organization.

"Every so often, a new technology or service delivery model is developed, and with it comes new opportunities for IT to transform business operation. [The CIO] must be involved in changing the business using IT, thereby helping the company value-add and gain the necessary [market] differentiation," she said.

David Chan, director of the Center for Information Leadership at City University London's School of Informatics, similarly advocated for IT chiefs to be able to carve out innovation from the changing IT landscape that will benefit the company.

He noted that besides cloud computing, enterprise mobility is the other industry trend that has "raised the bar" for IT functions. End-users are making demands that CIOs can no longer predict and, consequently, the IT department is no longer able to prepare to provide the services workers require, he added.

As such, the CIO has to transform into one that aligns the company to adapt to demands that are currently not known. "The CIO should probably stand for 'chief innovation officer'," he said.

Key to being innovative is to be flexible, Chan advised. Since there should no longer be any best practices or guidelines to follow, CIOs should decide on IT projects that are appropriate for the company's specific circumstances. For instance, if a company is mired in legacy systems and long-term contracts, fixing these problems will take precedence over cloud deployments, he said.

Ultimately, Poh said the next generation of IT chiefs needs to be able to "speak the language of the business" and facilitate the decision between top management and tech professionals to "translate visionary ideas into reality".

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