Finding the Right CIO

How do you hire a C-level executive for a position you may not understand fully? That’s the conundrum facing CEOs who are looking for the right CIO to handle their organization’s IT needs. The position involves more than just tech savvy; a CIO must also be adaptable, communicative, insightful, and knowledgeable. Here’s what to look for when seeking the right CIO for your business.

Strategic Thinking

Plenty of people have the technical knowledge to work in IT, but a successful CIO also looks at his or her work on a strategic level. Taking a long-range view that accounts for the total impact of a software deployment, hardware upgrade, or data security system puts the CIO in alignment with the organization’s overall strategic development. It’s no longer enough for CIOs to understand the technology; they must also understand its greater utility and meaning within the company. A strategic thinker is one who can help chart the course your organization takes, not just get carried along for the ride.

Visionary Insight

The nature of IT has changed dramatically in just the past decade, and there’s no reason to think more changes aren’t ahead. What you need is someone who can foresee these changes and adapt to them as they move from conceptual spaces into reality. Think about how much of an advantage organizations who were quick to adopt email marketing or social media gained over their peers who didn’t, and you have some idea of how important a forward-thinking CIO can be. Without sufficient vision, your CIO could leave you scrambling to catch up with the rapid pace of technological evolution.

Alignment with Company Culture

It’s just as important to choose a CIO that fits with your company culture as it is for any other position. Some CEOs make the mistake of setting IT apart from the rest of the organization, but it’s integral to the business as a whole – and that includes being a part of the company’s culture. If your company has a traditional, hierarchical structure, a CIO who chafes under authority won’t be a good fit, but one who prefers order and well-defined channels of authority will. Conversely, a more informal organization would work well with an iconoclastic CIO but might leave another disoriented.

Outstanding Communication Skills

Historically, IT personnel were sometimes given a pass on their people skills if they had the necessary tech knowledge. As technology has integrated itself thoroughly into people’s workplaces and personal lives, that’s no longer the case. Too many people can offer both great communication skills and top tech talent to assume you need to choose one or the other. Hold out for the CIO who can work equally well with customers and CPUs, associates and apps, peer-to-peer systems and actual peers.

Managerial Talent

Your CIO needs to be able to assemble and manage their IT staff. If you’re starting a new business venture, the ability to spot and manage top talent is critical, but even if you’re hiring a new CIO to slot into an existing IT department, being able to manage well is important. Look for someone with experience managing others to find your best CIO.

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