Over the last 15 months, the performance of enterprise tech executives has been nothing short of extraordinary. Throughout the pandemic, C-suite technology leaders demonstrated a capacity for operating at a strategic business level we’ve never seen before. And the value of technology for accelerating change and driving innovation within those organizations has never been clearer.
But these positive outcomes are now accompanied by heightened expectations. After years of clamoring for (and finally getting) a seat at the table, tech leaders are being asked to do even more.
What does this mean for CIOs and CISOs in 2021 and beyond? To answer that question, we convened a panel of top thinkers from the cream of executive recruiting firms: Karena Man from Egon Zehnder, Katie Graham Shannon from Heidrick & Struggles, and Spencer Stuart’s Ed Stadolnik.
- The CIO role is now the overall technology leader for the company – no longer just the IT ops lead
- CIOs now drive product and data strategies sometimes with new titles like CTOs, CDOs and CPOs
- CISO roles have been elevated with major board level attention as they proactively lead, and not react to cyber risk and threat issues
- Corporate innovation is the game-changer skillset required to compete – for talent, for ideas, and business impact
Expectations for CIOs are Greater Than Ever
The traditional functions of the CIO’s office have not changed. They’re still required to keep the trains running on time, make sure systems and data are secure, and deploy analytics to drive insights and create predictive models. But there is now a raft of new expectations for the role.
CIOs are increasingly responsible for software development. They’re being asked to create agile organizations that have DevOps embedded into their DNA, and to acquire tools that keep their developers happy. Tech leaders are ultimately responsible for the success of digital transformation initiatives, which means increasing automation and analytics while reducing technical debt. At the same time, they’re also expected to focus on the user experience and have the voice of the customer informing their decisions.
And even when organizations have people filling the roles of CTO, CISO, CDO, or Chief Product Officer, the CEO and the board still look to the CIO to provide a clear view of their risk exposure, deliver analytical insights, and help strategize new products. CIOs are not only expected to do more, they’re expected to be more. They’re asked to be CTOs and oversee software development. They’re asked to be Chief Digital Officers who can drive digital transformation. And they’re asked to think like Chief Product Officers and give employees an experience that makes coming to work a joy.
Organizations Seek a More Holistic Approach to Risk
The need to enable remote work across an entire enterprise virtually overnight forced large organizations to accept higher levels of risk, while at the same time increasing the attack surface by orders of magnitude. Enterprises looking to hire CISOs want someone who can manage corporate risk, not just cyber risk, and who can explain the threat environment to the board in ways they can understand.
Increasingly, CISOs are taking on responsibility for security, risk, and trust across the entire organization. As a result, many CISOs have begun to report directly to COOs or CFOs or are becoming peers of the CIO.
The Attributes of the Model CIO Have Evolved
We’re now in the middle of a dramatic cultural shift in what organizations are looking for from CIOs and other tech leaders. For many years, C-suite technology executives were expected to provide results, authority, and stability. Now organizations seek tech leaders who emphasize learning, flexibility, and caring.
Companies are also looking at an individual’s leadership skills. How effectively can CIOs manage a staff that is a combination of in-person, hybrid, and full-time remote? How do they recruit and develop talent equally across all three groups? How well do they leverage talent that’s outside their organizations and integrate third-party platforms?
Soft skills continue to be crucial. Increasingly, tech leaders are expected to communicate clearly and effectively with their own boards; many are also being asked to serve on other boards. The ability to develop, manage, and deploy innovation across the organization is a key attribute companies are looking for. Finally, organizations seek someone with the ability to think globally – to create an approach for employees and customers that is not solely US-centric.
CEOs are saying, ‘When there’s a C-suite technologist at the table, whether that’s a CIO, a Chief Digital Officer, a CISO, etc., we need the conversation to expand dramatically beyond just technology and their swim lane.’ Tech leaders need to ask themselves, ‘When I engage in discussions with my peers and the C suite, am I always dragging the conversation back to technology?’ Because at the end of the day you can still be a fantastic technologist, but you’ll never evolve beyond that.