Business Management

Dan Russon (Global) - How Can the Graduates of Today Become the CIOs of Tomorrow?

When many of today's CIOs were at university, punch cards were being used to programme machines. They remember green-screens as an exciting new advance and the humble mouse as a game changer. Moore's Law, first described in 1965, may have been understood in theory, but the subsequent pace and variety of technological advancement couldn't have been imagined. So, what can today's graduates expect by the time they reach the upper echelons of IT? And, how can the graduates of today best prepare themselves for leading tomorrow's technology industry? One answer; embrace change. Continued change is the only thing we can predict with any certainty.

The ability to react rapidly and effectively will continue to be essential. One of the reasons so many commentators and authors go gaga over Google, Apple, Gore and Amazon is that they have repeatedly shown the ability to evolve, rapidly. They've also had the confidence to explore new ideas and hunches, helping them to identifying what works and what doesn't. Doing more of the former and stopping the latter. It's safe to predict that expertise in managing big change programmes effectively will remain a major asset.

Just as important will be the ability to accurately measure and report on the impact of new technology initiatives, for example less management information and more true business intelligence. The volume and variety of data available today is staggering, but it remains poorly understood or utilised by many organisations. The complexity of available data can only continue to grow. Significant competitive advantage will always be available to those best able to explore, analyse and interpret complex data, as long as they are able to apply the results effectively.

Being able to derive clear strategy from meaningful data, allied to the ability to implement change rapidly and cost effectively, are key tools for IT to progress from ‘follower' to ‘leader'. These abilities, both personal and organisational, are unlikely to go out of fashion. They're not founded in, or reliant upon, any specific technology. That's another feature we can expect to see in tomorrow's CIO - they will become less and less technical. The fastest success will come to those who break the current, erroneous, barrier between ‘the business' and ‘IT'. For graduates of today there is no such divide, IT is part and parcel of the fabric of their world. There's a loose analogy with a child growing up in a bilingual household; they don't consciously ‘learn' French, it's simply another way of communicating, ingrained since birth.

For today's, and certainly tomorrow's, graduates, a career in IT won't be all that different to a career in finance, marketing or sales. Indeed, most of today's graduates who are pursuing careers outside IT are already far more technologically capable than many of today's CIOs. So perhaps another key to reaching the top in IT will have very little to do with IT and be much more about understanding the business, their customers and how to best impact profitability by working as a cohesive unit. There will be no more ‘them & us' as IT increasingly become part of ‘the business'. There have been few examples of CIOs moving into the CEOs shoes to date, at least not outside technology companies. However, in the future there must and will be more instances in industries such as banking, energy and utilities. A leadership career within IT will become increasingly relevant to taking the top job. A thorough understanding of the commercial applications of IT will become ever more essential for a CEO, whatever their background.

In summary, a graduate today needs to be able to hone change management skills; understand how to collect and interpret meaningful data to produce successful strategy; be acutely aware of how they can impact the overall business objectives and shareholder value to become the successful CIO of the future. If they are successful they won't just be prepared to be the CIO of tomorrow, but the CEO, chairman or president. A position that was unthinkable in the days when spacecraft carried less processing power than an iPod.


By Dan Russon, Services Director, Xceed Group


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