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What’s your CIO CIQ (competency intelligence quotient)?



Not long ago, I attended some panel discussions and participated in some blogs about CIO competencies. The conversations focused on the top competencies for today’s IT leaders; the ideas were original and intriguing, as they diverged from many of the notions bandied about on popular blogs. Here are some highlights:


Information management: While in India we are embroiled in the discussion on whether the CIO is a business leader or a technology steward, I came to know that in Europe the CIO is a distinctive role that is separate from technology. The main purpose of the CIO is to manage information (information management) and work closely with business to ensure that it gets the right information for success. This role sits between IT and business, and IT leaders focus mainly on technology. Skills such as business analysis, domain knowledge and a deep understanding of MIS and how information can be used to empower business play a key role.


Demand management: With the growing trends of consumerization and commoditization, the CIO will be required to manage demand using a variety of providers. Demand management is a distinctive skill and should be built as a separate competency.


Project/program management: This skill is generally weak in many organizations and depends more on vendors. Benefit realization and competency of program management, which are usually aligned to organizational themes driven from the business plan, are yet to mature in some markets. But as organizations will become leaner, this will be developed as a core competency within the organizations.


Outsourcing and partner management: The traditional vendor management skills will have to change to partner management even as a deep understanding of outsourcing is very much necessary. Without this, it would be difficult in to succeed in future, as partners will be more embedded in our business and will play key roles in our success.


Portfolio management: Unfortunately, in certain geographies this is not understood. Enterprise value creation through effective management of the IT portfolio has yet to be adopted as a practice while organizations continue to struggle with program and project management. With effective portfolio management, organizations can realize savings of 10 to 20 percent in certain cases, which far outweighs the total cost of operations.


Financial management: Understanding of financial management is an important competency. At the same time, "finance for non-finance managers" is a necessary training to undergo. Also necessary is the clear understanding of financial ratios, forecasting and cash flow, depreciation, amortization and impact of capital expenditure and operation expenditure on the balance sheet.


Domain knowledge: For CIOs, understanding business domains is imperative. They are expected to be more business-facing and in the right position to solve a variety of business problems. In future, if the CIO has to replace CMO or COO, then he/she will require a deep understanding of business aspects.


Contract management: Contract management skills are distinctive and require development. This requires an understanding of the legal aspects of MSAs (master services agreements) and their implications. In the future, when most of the services will be delivered through third parties, contract management skills will be necessary to manage partnerships and remain in control.


Governance: IT governance does not necessarily mean data protection or security, as widely believed. It is usually linked to enterprise value creation. Not only does the CIO need to understand IT governance, but he/she should also possess skills for the development of both IT and corporate governance.


Security: As more businesses go online and IT becomes more complex with the emergence of BYOD and cloud, the importance of security will continue to grow. Therefore, it is necessary to develop this competency, as it will help the CIO to second the role of CSO, wherever required.


Social skills: More initiatives fail because of sociology than technology. I strongly believe that this is a very important aspect that leads to deeper engagement with business and partners. It also requires the CIO to handle the team well and make the members comfortable.


You may be contactable but not approachable. You may have an open-door policy, but no one comes to you! You may ask for feedback, but no one cares to give it! Deeper engagement comes when you build trust and remove fear. This is necessary to generate enough fresh air and this will come when you convert “command, constraint and compliance” to “empower, engage and enable.”


These are very specific skills that are needed in addition to leadership skills; they involve vision and strategy, change management and the ability to impact and influence. There is lot of debate on these topics, but I generally find them more theoretical than practical.


A competency-based framework is necessary to implement for better management and optimization of the IT team while aligning them toward a larger vision. We have to re-imagine the future of IT, redefine the job roles and create competencies required for such roles. The training and development should be restructured to enable IT competencies for better alignment of people with roles for greater value realization.


Related links: The I in CIO stands for “innovation”

How IT leaders shift in a service-driven era


Currently a partner at CIO Specialist Advisory LLP, DD Mishra has more than 19 years of experience in IT. He has played key roles, including IT governance and outsourcing, program and portfolio management, consultancy, presales and delivery for various customers in the UK, India and Singapore and has experience from both the buyer side and seller side. He is a member of the Discover Performance community's IT Strategy & Performance LinkedIn group.


This blog was first posted on and is being reposted with prior permission.

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