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Why CIOs should help their CEOs become technically proficient



As the CIO/CTO role has matured over the years, successful technology leaders have taken up the mantle of aligning their job with the goals of the business. Modern IT leaders not only speak the same language as the business side, but they must understand (and be able to explain) the business value of IT, as well as justify IT spends.


Yet the same question is rarely asked for the business side: Must a CEO understand technology to lead effectively and run a successful enterprise? There are numerous case studies of organizations with CEOs who appreciate and understand the value of technology, and have successfully leveraged it to its full potential while transforming businesses. It is necessary at times for a CEO to look at IT from a CIO's perspective as well, and support the CIO in achieving technology objectives.


Leaders with a non-geeky IT perspective

John Chambers, CISCO CEO, once said: "Brilliant leaders will be successful even if they play with one arm behind their back. But the great leaders of the future will absolutely know technology. Not from a geeky perspective, but from a practical business approach." Many surveys suggest that most CEOs are completely out of sync with the latest trends in technology and some may be a decade behind in their thinking. This seriously limits CIOs' ability to drive change and transformation—and it’s not a good sign for IT folks, either. This is where CEOs should also align themselves with CIOs and spend more time with them to understand the business value that IT can deliver.


In my view, technology will not just be a key differentiator but also a part of business. Hence, CEOs do not have an escape route from technology. If CEOs know how to read a balance sheet, they should also understand the basics of technology. That does not mean becoming a technology wizard; instead, it means having the basic knowledge of what is happening and how it is helping the business. Hence, "technical proficiency" should be one of the competency areas for CEOs, and they should count on CIOs and CTOs to strengthen this competency further.


IBM's insight on CIO study suggests, "CIOs are now increasingly in step with CEOs' top priorities." While this could be good news for CEOs, more good news is also expected in the form of CEOs' understanding of CIOs' constraints and support required from the business to generate business value of IT.


Related links: The CIO’s game-changing skill: bridging IT and business data

IT executives must align technology with business


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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