Oh I See! Getting CIOs to view their jobs from a different angle

Nov 23 2009   8:28AM GMT

What is the role of a CIO?

Arun Gupta Arun Gupta Profile: Arun Gupta

At a recent social event, I got introduced to a new-age professional — one who hobnobs with CEOs and Boards, all the while talking about environment changes and the resultant impact on future climatic conditions. Post the introductions and a bit of discussion about carbon credits, she innocuously asked me the question, “What does a CIO do?

I was taken aback, aghast, and speechless for a few moments. Seeing my face, she quickly added, “Sorry, I have not come across CIOs in the past.”

And they talk about CIOs driving their companies’ Green agenda!

So I tried to give her some answers based on commonly accepted definitions and job descriptions loved by CIOs and executive search companies. She listened attentively as I started my discourse on the strategic nature of a CIO’s position and how the role has evolved over a period of time to now being recognized as an integral part of the C-suite. However, it was obvious after a few minutes that she was just being polite. She had no interest in the wonderful stuff that CIOs do — at least, not in what CIOs believe is wonderful.

The fundamental question nagged me for a few days after this fateful meeting. So I started asking a few peers that question —without exception, everyone wondered if I needed to visit a Psychiatrist. The more I thought about it, the more it haunted me. My Eureka moment arrived, by chance, while reading “The Whole New Mind” by Daniel Pink.

CIOs are left-brained people pushed towards right-brained activities and they face a constant struggle. The CIO’s role involves a transformation from being the glass-house’s keeper. He has to mold himself to becoming worthy of the oak desk corner office and a seat on the management table. For most CIOs, this has been made possible by successfully traversing the path from being a technology person to a well-rounded professional. He has to be the person who is equally at ease with techie stuff, as well as balance sheets and customer engagements. The CIO is unique in his ability to contribute to all segments of the enterprise.

Now, that’s an unusual way to describe a CIO. But to me, it’s a very satisfying definition of a continuously evolving role.

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