The new core competencies that CIOs will need in 2020

Mobile and cloud are fundamentally reshaping enterprise computing. They have already changed the overall relationship between IT and the rest of an organization. Shadow IT has become both a challenge and an immense opportunity for CIOs, but seizing that opportunity requires a shift in mindset. To be successful, CIOs and IT staff must work with lines of business as fully equal partners and trusted advisors.

Expectations of the ability to work with whatever tools best fit their needs, and the ability to shadow task by performing personal tasks at work and work tasks at home, and the privacy of personal information have become standard for workers.

MobileIron’s Generation Mobile or Gen M survey, released this spring, identified that highly mobile employees regard the ability to shadow task as so critical that many would leave their jobs if that ability was not supported by their employer and, by extension, their IT department.

Our 2015 Trust Gap survey, released today, highlights that privacy remains a core issue for most employees. 61% of mobile workers trust their employer to keep their personal information private on a mobile device, putting a large expectation of privacy on IT departments. Adding to that expectation is the fact that 30% of mobile workers would leave their job if their employer could see personal information on a device.

Adapting to these realities and successfully harnessing the potential they present will require CIOs to develop or expand their skill sets. Being well versed in managing technology is no longer enough, which is why some columnists have predicted that we’ll see future CIOs coming from a more diverse set of backgrounds, potentially even from outside IT entirely.

Here are five new or expanded core competencies that will be required for CIOs to be successful over the next five years.

  • Understanding the new ways information flows through the enterprise
    Mobile, cloud, and other emerging technologies are changing the way workers and managers access and make use of information. The CIO of 2020 needs to be fully versed in the devices, apps, and services that workers are using as well as where the market is heading in terms of both business and consumer technologies. This is more expansive than old demands of simply keeping up with advances in business computing, but it allows a CIO to advise solutions that will be effective in the long term. Taking a bird's eye view of all technologies used across an organization also means the ability to ensure they are integrated without creating data silos and that economies of scale are used for effective cost savings overall.
  • The ability to meet line of business managers on equal footing
    An increasing number of technology decisions are being made by non-IT executives, line of business managers, and ad-hoc teams. To succeed long term, a CIO must be able to understand all the facets of an organization and be willing to learn about the job roles, tasks, and processes that exist in each department. That understanding is fundamental to the ability to work as an equal partner and trusted advisor and it requires a deeper level of dialog than simply asking for a list of specs or requirements. The opportunities for true collaboration here are vast, as is the potential value that such relationships can drive.
  • Understanding of how to get executive and employee buy-in and support
    This may seem an obvious skill and it is one that every successful executive likely has to one extent or another. It becomes increasingly acute, however, when you consider the expansive nature of the technology shifts that are occurring today. A CIO will need executive sponsorship to tackle many major projects that will be required to truly innovate and drive extensive value through new technologies. A big part of that is the ability to truly demonstrate deep cost savings or competitive advantages that might be easily missed.
  • A broad range of communication skills
    It goes without saying that CIOs, like all successful leaders, have always needed communications skills. As workers become more technologically adept and as consumer technologies become the norm in business, a broader set of communication skills is required. Simple missives about services and policies no longer suffice. A CIO must engage, directly or through IT staff, the entire workforce in significant ways. This goes beyond engaging other executives and it requires new mechanisms of communication ranging from email to blogs and wikis to social tools. The range of tone also needs to expand and the communication needs to become a true dialog. As I discussed last month, consumer technology announcements offer one excellent way to get that dialog going.
  • The ability to manage a massive culture shift
    The biggest skill needed by CIOs over the next five years is the ability to guide both their IT department and their organization through a massive shift in culture as well as technology. Mobile and cloud are redefining enterprise computing at such a fast clip that everyone needs to adapt and iterate quickly and constantly. This is a big change for our society at large, for employer/employee relationships, and for the IT professionals across the board. A CIO must be able to manage a state of constant transition and encourage the professional development required for any IT employee to remain successful through these changes.

Ultimately, the road ahead is likely to be a rewarding one for many CIOs, but it will require a change in mindset and the addition or expansion of these key skills.


Ryan Faas