Tuesday, 02 August 2016 19:52

Growing shift from traditional IT role to ‘strategic’ business partner for CIOs Featured


Despite becoming increasingly more integral to the strategic side of businesses, many Australian chief information officers are concerned their lack of visibility in their organisations are hampering their ability to take on the role of a “strategic business partner” as IT becomes more important.

According to a recent survey by recruitment firm Robert Half the role of CIO continues to evolve from operations enablers to strategic business partners, but this shift is posing new challenges for the CIOs.

Almost one third (32%) of CIOs surveyed said the biggest challenge within their role is a lack of technology investment and resources, followed by 17% who referred to a lack of visibility within the organisation – and, 16% who said  a skills shortage and finding skilled IT professionals was a significant challenge.

David Jones, senior managing director of Robert Half Asia Pacific, says technology advancements such as Big Data, cloud and mobile technology, are driving business change, delivering growth and innovation across multiple sectors.

“This brings more challenges in terms of IT security and all of these changes explain why the role of the CIO has evolved to become more integral to the overall function of the business.”

Jones says the insights coming from these IT developments have become increasingly important to gain a competitive advantage and to make strategic decisions.

“While maintaining the IT infrastructure and ensuring everything runs smoothly from an operational point of view remains a crucial component for a CIO in any company, the role itself has expanded. In the last few years, the CIO has transformed and evolved from operational enablers to strategic business partners.”

Jones says the survey reveals that, generally, Australian CIOs judge their skills to be in line with what they define as the skills required to be a successful CIO, countering any suggestion of a skills gap for IT leaders.

According to IT leaders in Australia, the top three soft skills needed for any CIO to succeed in their role are leadership skills (56%), analytical skills (51%) and strategic vision (47%).

And, according to the Robert Half survey, how CIOs rate their own top “soft skills”, 58% say leadership and analytical skills, while 45% refer to adaptability and flexibility, and a further 45% refer to their communication skills. More than one third (34%) identify strategic vision as part of their top three soft skills.

“The CIO function is evolving which means the skills needed are also evolving, “ Jones observes.

“Today’s CIO doesn’t just need to have the technical knowhow, but also needs to show clear leadership skills, be able to analyse IT issues and clearly articulate that technical information and their implications – as well as insights and solutions - to senior stakeholders and colleagues who do not necessarily have a background in IT.”

According to Jones, the CIO has become a genuine business partner. “Today’s CIO is not just a problem-solver, but also a strategist and an influencer. This evolving skill set has led to the IT leader securing a spot at the decision table.”

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - retired in 2020. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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