Non Technical CIO?

27th August 2013 | By Mouseworld Now Correspondent |

vishal-guptaThe Chief Information Officer (CIO) heads the information technology department for enterprise. It is only natural that one would expect a significant amount of these CIOs to be from technical background. But isn’t it equally important for CIOs to be able to relate to business. After all information technology has to meet goals and objectives of business, and hence it is only natural to expect CIO to be as business savvy. Actually, Gartner survey shows that significant numbers of CIOs are from entirely non technical background.

So, it is not entirely a novelty to have a CIO, who has absolutely no technical experience. Indeed some would argue that a CIO with only business experience would bring significant strengths to the role such as ability to understand market needs, and needs of customers and partners. Such a CIO would also understand business priorities and goals. Business CIO would also have end user perspective.

A CIO with technical experience however would be able to understand limitations of technology. The technical CIO would be able to translate business needs to technical needs. The technical CIO would be better able to manage a technical team.  And it should be remembered that for better or for worse CIOs have been usually from technical background, with non technical CIOs being late entrants.

What skills should CIOs have? CIOs should have leadership ability. CIOs should have some understanding of business. CIOs should have some understanding of technology. CIOs should have communication skills, analytical, logical skills and innovative skills. Other than that, everything else is essentially up for grabs.

The answer to the question, should a CIO be technical or not is not an easy one. Indeed it is as much dependent on organisational culture as much as its appetite for risk. A business CIO may be tempting and perhaps conjure the possibility of IT function achieving great business benefits. However a technical CIO assures one of IT functioning adequately.

One’s view and this view does not have universal validity is that it is safer to have a technical CIO, who understand business. Perhaps a technical CIO who has a management qualification is a better bet. Maybe you should go for a technical CIO who has adequate business experience and expertise.

Admittedly there is a trend towards non technical CIOs, but this a new trend. Technical CIOs or IT heads have been there for almost past 50 years. Yes, some may think that a business CIO could work miracles. But one is being a little cautious and suggesting that one opt for a technical CIO, since that is a time tested solution.

There is no guarantee that a business CIO would radically transform business, but there is a risk that a business CIO may not manage the technical infrastructure well.


- By Vishal Gupta, CEO of Seclore

(The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those held by Mouseworld now.)

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