This is a question that frequently raised its head during my
tenure as a CIO. Almost as frequently as: does CIO stand for ‘Career is Over?’
There are certainly examples in which CIOs have risen to the
rank of CEO. Generally these tend to relate to either company restructures that
have seen the emergence of new business subsidiaries under a larger parent, or
more typically internal ICT organisations that have restructured as ICT
Companies, possibly from what Gartner terms as Internal Services Companies (ISCos).
So, yes it can happen!
If that is your aspiration, I’ve provided five tips below to
help you to make it happen. They
· Step one – Gaining Acceptance
Step two – Achieving Parity
Step three – Adopting a CEO Champion
Step four – Extenuating the Positives
Step five – Establishing your Virtual Footprint
Each is outlined below.
The fact that CIOs are generally
well represented around the ‘Top Table’ these days, removes one significant
barrier to career escalation. As senior executives, CIOs get the opportunity to
get to know the CEO and possibly members of the Board or Government whichever
it happens to be. At the same time, they will have dwelled in the same pastures
and to a large extend fed from the same trough as their senior executive
colleagues. Above all else they should (if they’ve done their job well) have
gained a whole of business perspective as well as fostering a degree of mutual
respect and support.
At least CIO’s can consider
themselves to be alongside the likes of the Chief Finance, Strategy, Operating
and or Procurement Officers in the line to the Head Hunter’s door, or can they?
I’ve worked with at least one CFO
who has subsequently been appointed as CEO for another organisation and I’ve
worked with a variety of other business executives that have done the same.
Backgrounds have included Procurement, Engineering and assortment of Business
Operational Executive Managers. The experiences differ but they do tend to have
some things in common:
Most have a solid tertiary qualification;
Most have done more than one senior executive role;
Most have taken the lead in a significant
All have been driven towards CEO attainment.
Another important factor is that all
of them have been mentored and supported by a sponsoring CEO. There is
nothing quite like having a well-respected CEO in your corner to champion your
cause, to mentor you through the teething troubles or to kick start you on the
trail to being a CEO. It is a sure way to attach credibility to your
But there are also a few factors
in your favour as a CIO:
Likelihood of a strong connection with
Familiarity with many other parts of business
operations and offering a unique perspective?
Experience with good governance and service
delivery and/or shared services?
More than a passing familiarity of the potential
for ICT to generate business value.
The first thing to do is to
articulate your value proposition. I
suggest using, practising and refining this as an elevator pitch. Then you’ll
need to find a nurturing CEO (not the simplest of task in itself) to get you
moving in the right circles and elevate your profile. In the interests of
achieving parity, a sideways step into an alternative Executive Management role
might round-off your preparation.
your virtual Footprint
Today the tools are at hand to
help you to establish and raise your profile on a local, national and
international basis. Tools like LinkedIn, Twitter and even Facebook are all at
your disposal through which you can boost your virtual presence. Twitter and
Blogs especially offer a means to get your views and opinions across, all of
which can help to establish your reputation. You may also want to investigate
how to accumulate your Klout score via Klout.com to represent the extent to
which ‘you influence the world!’ Keep in mind of course that both good and bad
reputations can be made over night!
At the same time, presenting at
industry events and getting involved with industry bodies and associations can
create openings through which you might display your talents. In other words,
plan to migrate from being seen as a company champion to being revered as an
In the meantime, as for me I think I’ll just stick to my
‘vowel theory’. That is in terms of my aspirations of moving from ex-CIO to
CEO, I’ll continue to dispute the rule that suggests it should be “I comes before
E, except after C”!
Associate Partner, Information Professionals
has over 30 years experience as an ICT professional including 15 years
in Chief Information Officer (CIO) roles. His particular skills include
ICT and business strategic planning, program management, business and
ICT alignment and stakeholder management. He is particularly valuable
for organisations seeking to get more out of their ICT investments
and/or to use ICT to transform their organisation.
Labels: "Information Professionals", Acceptance, Board, Business, C Suite, Career, CEO, CEO Champion, CFO, CIO, CPO, Mutual Respect, Parity, Reputation, support, Tony Welsh, Trajectory