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How the role of CIO is changing

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Jean-Pierre Green, Partner within our Digital & Technology Practice, reveals his views on the job of a chief information officer (CIO) today and where it is heading.

JP, you place a large number of CIOs in top roles. How has the job been changing?

The job is no longer really about technology. When I interview a candidate for CIO, we talk about business strategy, the mechanics behind P&L performance, what problems they are trying to help solve, and their ability to change and impact market share. I am looking for a leader who can help shape strategy across the organisation underpinned by the commercial value digital potential can unlock for a business. They are a disruptive thinker able to drive the growth agenda. That’s a break with the role of the past, which often centred on the tech estate. Part of the reason for the change is that technology is far less complex and increasingly commoditised, but also IT and business are merging and their strategies becoming inseparable. The role of the CIO in my mind has shifted significantly towards a leadership role, focussed on competitive advantage and profitability. The IT leader is now a business leader.

What makes an outstanding CIO?

The very best will grasp the full gamut of company activities, from customer acquisition and marketing to logistics and finance. CIOs are arguably better equipped than anybody in today’s digital era to educate the board on the art of the possible and inspire change and transformation. Frankly, modern, progressive and digitally mature companies sometimes regard their CIO as a potential future CEO in waiting. They’ll have a natural talent for motivating staff, a gifted sense of strategic opportunity, and a passion for the mission of the company, which one day they may get to lead.

The role of the CIO has shifted significantly towards a leadership role, focussed on competitive advantage and profitability

What sort of background is best?

The common factor is understanding the opportunities technology can open up and experience of delivering game changing transformation that straddles people and process, enabled by technology. We see consultants and former Big Four professionals making strong CIOs. An MBA can be very helpful. Above all we are looking for that mindset and desire to move the needle at a company-wide level, the horizontal influence and stakeholder engagement skills needed to achieve this. We look for a track record of being a visionary and having a real impact on business outcomes harnessing technology as an asset and differentiator. The belief that a CIO needs a deep tech background or degree is a little misguided.

Is it a Board level position?

Yes, increasingly so. I see more CIOs than ever on boards. Irrespective, CIOs need to speak the same language as the board and have the ear of the CEO. More companies are now getting their CIOs around the table and appointing them to the board as they look to embrace the digitisation of their operating models and customer pathways. The position has undeniably gained in strategic importance and is being given the stature to reflect this. As more companies realise the results a talented CIO can deliver, the trend to board appointments will accelerate.

What makes EBP a successful search partner in the CIO market?

We find exceptional candidates for ambitious companies across the C-suite and senior management. Our sweet spot is high growth mid-cap, FTSE-250, and FTSE-100. It might sound fluffy, but the reason we’ve developed long-lasting relationships with clients is because of our care and authenticity as individuals. We are grounded, pragmatic, candid, and nice! We think outside the box on diversity and also support our clients with creating inclusive environments to ensure successful appointments. This ultimately means we deliver exceptional senior talent for our clients and having placed candidates across 35 countries, we have a truly international reach. Above all, we love what we do.

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