To reframe the question... Could CIO be a stepping stone to CEO, when CO of CFO was the natural route. The anwer is yes, but only if the CIO is a real CIO i.e Chief Information Officer. But most CIOs are really IT Directors with snazzier job titles. They focus on running IT and have the IT department report to them. I have long argued that truly innovative companies have a CIO AND an IT Director. The IT Director focuses on 83% of the IT budget - keep the lights on. The CIO is focused on leveraging information as an asset
In fact I dug out this blog called "I have just met the future CIO – and he doesn’t work for IT" dated May17, 2011.. link below
I really like how Ian started this out, and think that a CIO with an IT Director under the CIO is a great idea. The C-Suite jobs each have a focus but all of them should be thinking and working enterprise wide. So the CIO might be an Exeuctive Sponsor or Process Owner of certain enterprise processes and that could be part of the job or a job to give the role more breadth. And yes, I agree with Ian that the CIO might become the CEO.
I am going to agree violently with Ian on this. The best CIO's will certainly have a good chance to become the CEO, but the majority of the best CIO's that I get the chance to meet don't have the traditional "started as a developer and worked my way up through the IT ranks" background, instead they're much more likely to have come into the role of CIO from the business.
Of course that isn't to say it's impossible to have a more traditional background and still be able to aquire the strategic, change management and leadership skills that the CEO needs to have.
Like Ian, I make a strong disctinction between the business and change leadership elements of the CIO role and the technical / operational role - When Ian talks about a CIO having a Director of IT reporting to him or her I just use a slightly different (but pretty much equivalent) title of "Head of IT operations".
And yeah... I've been talking about this for a while too.... see my piece "Lizards and Birds" below.
Unfortunately, this question bifurcates on the opening response.
1. could it be a stepping stone? for the right person yes. Good discussion, I'm in agreement. A great CEO who has spent time as CIO would be fantastic.
2. are the set of people historically in CIO roles the people who should be running the company as CEO?
Let's take a step back. The current epoch of CIO's - 2000's and 2010's - are the batch that presided over the greatest destruction of organizational knowledge in IT across the US and Europe in recorded history. If they take the same approach to the CEO job, they would:
- outsource marketing to another country and company
- outsource sales to another country and company
- outsource product design to another country and company
- outsource manufacturing (if it isn't already done)
- outsource all elements of the company except Legal. no, outsoure that too.
And in all cases, by all means, pick the people with the lowest hourly rate no matter what the other factors are, or which political system they're in, or how private or personal data might get exposed.
Sure, those guys would make GREAT CEOs, right? Only if they learn a whole new set of tricks that looks like:
- understanding your people and investing in them
- understanding your competitive advantages and leveraging them
- not outsourcing your core competencies or losing your organizational knowledge
- understanding that technology is competitive advantage not that "thing to be outsourced"...!
- understanding that culture may be the most important thing to foster and you can't do that while you're outsourcing people's job functions or departments.
Harsh truths. Our best customers have CIOs that look like the latter grouping of points - they understand how to run a business and how to build a team and a capability. But they're often hampered by previous leadership's lack of focus on these issues and laser focus on cost per hour (a classic "focus on the wrong input" problem).
In my long career I have known many CIO's that I would trust running a company. Many have had good business sense and great IT skills. On the other hand I have known many that are so wrapped up in the technology that they lose site of the business solution. Keep in mind that it is the business that defines the need more often than the IT organization does and very often IT finds a solution looking for a need.
So the answer to the question is maybe sometimes but not always can the CIO run the company and never would I make a decision to elevate the position to CEO.
It is the business process that makes the business successful and knowing what business you're in and that is the job of the CEO and or President
I'm with "Team B" -- the team that says that CIOs may not have the royal jelly you need to be CEO.
It's an argument though. There is some support for "Team A's" position that information resources are so important and so complex, that they almost define the organization, and what better person to lead then, than the Chief of all that information?
Support for the CIO2CEO position can be found in the fact that the largest single group of CEOs measured by background comes from finance (30%). There's a sense in which IT is "accounting and finance writ large", once you get away from low-level infrastructure questions. So insofar as mastering organizational and informational complexity is the road to success, the CIO gets the job.
But I don't find the argument a winner. Ultimately I see the argument as exemplifying what you might call a "Soviet-style" approach. This approach defines the organization as fundamentally about "administration". But the CEO's role is very much about looking over the parapets to see who we can work with and who we need to fight. Technology is just too hard and our brains too small for one person to be really good at being a CIO and at the same time understanding and leading in finance and sales. The odd individual might do it, but not as a rule.
It's not for nothing that the second largest group of CEOs have sales as their functional background (20%). No one has mentioned sales so far. It's a cliche, but the best administered company in the world won't last long without great sales and strategic partnerships, decent operating margins and sound financial strategies. The CIO enables these things, and that's a marvel and that's enough. But it's the CEO who thinks of nothing else than driving profitable sales in stable financial framework. That too is enough for one person. And that CEO has to consider all the dependencies on which sales depend, including new products and services, and the esprit de corps of the staff to implement such programs, and all of which in turn may depend on BPM technology. So, finally we are back at the CIO. But it's a long way back.
"In the 19th century, you scaled a company by adding people. Managing people was the core skill and managers got the big bucks.
In the 21st century you scale a company with better technology. Datascience and Development are the key roles." Andreasson Horowitz
We created our business structures around our emphasis on people management. Set up Chief level positions in the assumption that managing the people in that vertical was the key role. The job of all the C people is to manage other people - yes, even CIOs.
That whole structure is coming apart.
You'll have heard about how Deep Blue beat Gary Kasparov at Chess. The assumption was that this meant machines would take over.
But the best chess players now are teams of people working together with powerful computers. Man and machine in harmony.
First step to creating this is to tear down the whole BigIT structure to allow one where everyone is a tech expert. Banish the two tier "Morlocks slaving away underground so we can live in Elysium" mentality.
And we should be guided by Erik Brynolfsson's thought in The Second Machine Age...
"In the 19th century we moved beyond the limitations of human muscle. In the 21st we will move beyond the limitations of the human mind".