Questionnaire: Are you CIO material?

A lot of IT pros aspire to the office of CIO. What many don't understand is that the position requires a certain set of skills. Take this quiz to see if you've got the right background.
Written by Patrick Gray, Contributor

Are you CIO material? Take the quiz below to find out:

 During your career, how many business units have you worked with outside of IT? Examples are marketing, accounting, supply chain, etc.

a)  None. I've been in IT my entire career

b)  One business unit in addition to IT

c)  Two or more business units in addition to IT


2  Which of the following describes your project management experience?

a)  Team of 2-9 people, budget under $1 million USD

b)  Team of 10-99 people, budget from $1 million to $100 million USD

c)  Team of greater than 100 people, budget in excess of $100 million USD

d)  I have not managed any projects


3  Have you been directly responsible for making a hiring and/or firing decision?

a) Yes

b) No


4  Have you been responsible for evaluating staff, creating their development plans, and completing annual reviews?

a) Yes

b) No


5  How often do you present to C-level executives (CEO, CFO, COO, etc.) and/or the board of directors?

a)  Never

b)  Once or twice a year

c)  Monthly or more


6  What do you consider to be a CIO's primary objective?

a)  Provide maximum uptime at minimum cost

b)  Do whatever the boss (the CEO, CFO, etc.) says

c)  Create and execute an IT strategy that matches the overall corporate strategy

d)  Be the main decision maker on all IT management questions and issues


7  When dealing with other executives, the CIO should strive to:

a)  Stay out of the way until the discussion turns to systems and technology

b)  Insert himself or herself into as many discussions as possible to preserve the integrity of IT's systems, architecture standards, and technology strategy

c)  When invited into a discussion, attempt to understand and articulate the business problem, offering technical solutions where appropriate

d)  Actively inform other executives about current trends and developments and identify how they are relevant to the company


8  Have you negotiated a software or services contract in excess of $5 million US?

a)  Yes

b)  No


9  You've arrived at your new employer for your first day as CIO. The CEO stops you in the hall and says, "I keep hearing about 'the cloud' and I think we need to start using it. What are your thoughts?" How would you answer?

a)  Moving to the cloud is a great idea. The cloud gives us immediate access to innovative technologies at commodity pricing, and I'll start soliciting vendors immediately.

b)  The cloud is a relatively untested platform and essentially sends critical infrastructure to a provider that might mishandle it, lose data, or go out of business tomorrow. I just can't recommend moving to a cloud provider at this time.

c)  None of the above


10  What should be IT's primary metric?

a)  Uptime, preferably as close to 'five nines' as possible

b)  TCO (total cost of ownership)/total cost of IT, tracked against every IT service from cost per email to bytes of data transferred

c)  Return on IT investment, generally tracked against IT projects

d)  All IT services should be aggregated and charged back to business units on a usage-based basis

e)  None of the above. IT is simply too complex to be reduced to one or two metrics.


11  How should you hire new staff for your IT organization?

a)  Provide HR with a 'shopping list' of certifications and technologies and let them manage the entire process to ensure it’s done correctly, without using too much of IT's time

b)  Ask HR to focus on hiring deeply experienced technical resources from competitors and similar companies

c)  Look primarily for an ability to learn and be flexible, mostly through extensive interviews with existing IT staff

d)  Cease all recruitment efforts to save money until better times return. The economy is too tough right now to consider hiring.


12  Your IT organization doesn't have any formal data protection standards in place, but it expects employees to take appropriate precautions. A low-level IT employee leaves her briefcase in a bar, containing a printout with employee names, addresses, social security numbers, and salaries. What do you do?

a)  Admit the data loss, publically reprimand the employee and dismiss her, then launch an initiative to create a formal data protection policy

b)  Admit the data loss and publically take the blame for not putting a more detailed policy in place. Launch an initiative to create a formal data protection policy

c)  Wait to see if there is any fallout from the data loss. If there is, minimize the importance of the loss and consider drafting a formal data protection policy.

d)  Wait to see if there is any fallout from the data loss. If there is, report the employee who lost the data to HR and legal and ensure it's clear that you had no direct responsibility for the incident.


13  How many days each year do you spend dealing with end customers or visiting operations? Examples include working in your company's retail outlets, listening in at the call center, walking the plant floor, etc.

a)  Three or more

b)  Less than three


Here's how each answer breaks down in points. Add (or subtract) points as indicated by your answers:

  1  a = 0 points, b = 2 points, c= 4 points
  2  a = 1 point, b = 2 points, c = 4 points, d = -1 points
  3  a = 2 points, b = 0 points
  4  a = 2 points, b = 0 points
  5  a = -2 points, b = 0 points, c = 1 point
  6  a = 1 point, b = 0 points, c = 3 points, d = -1 points
  7  a = -2 points, b = 0 points, c = 1 point, d = 2 points
  8  a = 2 points, b = 0 points
  9  a = 0 points, b = 0 points, c = 2 points
10  a = 0 points, b = -1 point, c = 2 points, d = 1 point, e = -2 points
11  a = -1 point, b = 1 point, c = 3 points, d = 0 points
12  a = 2 points, b = 2 points, c = -1 points, d = -2 points
13  a = 1 point, b = 0 points


The scale

25-30+ points  Congratulations! You're true IT leadership material. You've got solid experience, understand how IT relates to the rest of the organization, and are ready to deal with the leadership challenges that a C-level leader must face.

21-24 points  Nice work. You're almost ready to play in the big leagues and have a solid understanding of the challenges faced by modern IT leaders. Take some time to develop your skills in managing large projects and budgets, hiring and grooming staff, working with your executive peers, and making difficult leadership decisions.

10-20 points  You're on your way to becoming CIO material. Seek out management roles where you can further develop your skills and practice working with and relating to the C-level executives who will one day be your peers. Consider how you'll tackle difficult leadership decisions and become a trusted advisor to others in your organization.

Less than 10 points  The bad news is that you've got a ways to go before you're ready for the top IT leadership role, but the good news is that you've started to consider the challenges you'll face in this role. As you progress in your career, seek out positions where you’ll be able to manage people and projects and be able to observe and learn from leaders as they interact with executives and make difficult management decisions.


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