It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s CIO Superman!?

Technology executives are key business strategy players in today’s mid-market companies. In recent years, we’ve raised the bar for the qualifications for the ideal CIO. But, are our expectations realistic? Are we looking for a superman or superwoman?


I had to chuckle while reading Chris Curran’s analysis, “CIO Background Check: IT Experience Mandatory?” He makes excellent points and concludes that IT experience is a prerequisite for a CIO to be successful. He goes further to say that a dual background, one with both IT and business operational experience, is the best combination. I agree completely that this is ideal.

In addition to successful IT management experience, Curran lists broader skills and experiences that should be considered in search of the ideal CIO:

  • Leadership abilities
  • Hands-on technology background
  • Experience in leading large change programs
  • Experience in running successful IT infrastructure operations
  • Management experience in a non-IT function
  • Innovative thinking that can solve relevant industry and business issues
  • The ability to understand how projects and operations impact corporate financials.

These comprise the ideal characteristics of a successful CIO candidate in today’s dynamic business environment. But what a tall order!?

I am struck that companies are looking for a CIO superman (or superwoman), who is difficult to find and even more difficult to keep.

Deloitte recently published the results of its global executive survey on IT talent, titled “Mind the Talent Gap.” (Author note: I recommend this study to any business where technology is critical to the execution of its business strategy) Survey results validate that technology leadership will be in short supply, if it isn’t already, in coming years.

Deloitte’s prescription for closing the talent gap is both challenging and expensive, but definitely high ROI for large companies. At 3coast, we are mindful of the mid-market and believe variations on the Deloitte recommendations will be required for mid-market companies to obtain the full value of technology leadership in an increasingly competitive labor market for those high-demand, low-supply skills and experiences.

CIO Background Check: IT Experience Mandatory?

2 thoughts on “It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s CIO Superman!?

  1. I think that one of the reasons why the job tenure of CIOs is so short (3 years plus or minus) is that everyone has a view of what a CIO should be / do that is as you describe, super-human. Business assumes that the CIO can solve its problems … a substantial step beyond creating and maintaining system functions in support of business. “Its problems” are seen as the domain of IT and the CIO even when, maybe particularly, the business and the other leaders on the team are not able to articulate them.

    Being super-human is a large burden. It would be nicer to be a valued part of a strong team, acknowledged for the unique contribution brought by the CIO role, and with a shared ownership of the business problems. A partnership with business in this sense is a two way transaction and requires a capable, strong, but not a super-human CIO.

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