The skills and traits of a next-generation CIO

Shifting technology budgets, old IT habits, and new turf wars have many CIOs stuck in a corner. Here’s what it takes to stand out as a great, forward-thinking CIO.

As digital transformation threatens to alter everything we thought we knew about business, the C-suite is suddenly crowded with geeks, and companies scrambling to disrupt themselves or die trying are looking to technology for answers, but not necessarily to the office of the CIO.

The need to spin customer data into gold has led to the rise of tech-savvy executives with titles like chief digital officer, experience officer, marketing technology officer, analytics officer, and the like.

But it's about more than just job titles; it's also about money and power. The average chief marketing officer's budget for technology is roughly on a par with the CIO's and will likely exceed it over the next few years, according to Gartner.

"The influence of CMOs on IT decisions is becoming greater and greater," notes Martin Häring, chief marketing officer for Finastra, a global financial services technology company. "That's because the demand for data and analytics as foundation for every marketing activity is increasing more and more."

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But some of this can also be traced to a lack of innovation coming from the CIOs office. If old-school CIOs cling to an IT-business-as-usual attitude, they risk becoming second-class citizens in the executive suite, responsible for keeping the lights on and the servers humming but not involved in key decisions that drive the business forward.

But for forward-thinking CIOs, opportunities abound. Here’s how to navigate the quickly evolving business landscape and regain your C-suite mojo.

It's the customers, stupid

When Ingrid Lindberg was named customer experience officer (CXO) for Cigna Health in 2007, she was one of the first people to hold that title. But she wasn't alone for long.

"Back then, when you searched for 'customer experience officer' on LinkedIn, mine was the only name that showed up," says Lindberg, who was recently appointed president of Kobie Marketing, a provider of loyalty program solutions. "Now there's something like 37,000 of us."

Over the past ten years the number of digital customer touchpoints -- and the data associated with them -- has exploded. CIOs who see their primary function as managing internal IT systems are not in a position to deliver the information businesses need to improve the customer experience, she says.

"If you're a CIO who hasn't made the realization that we are multiple years into the age of the customer, then it's time to shop for a new job," says Lindberg. "You have to understand the customer's wants and needs. That's why one of the first things I do upon walking into an organization is figure out how to connect the CIO to the live voice of the customer on an ongoing basis."

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