In ancient Roman culture, the mythical deity Janus was depicted with two faces: one facing the past, the other facing the future. Janus had the rare ability to look in two directions at once, and understand what was happening on both sides. From my perspective, Janus would be an excellent role model for the 21st century CIO.
In the modern enterprise, you can’t afford to focus solely on the future or on the past. You need the ability to shift your focus rapidly and comprehend the big picture.
The idea of looking in two directions at the same time arose during a great conversation with Kevin Sealy, Senior Client Partner & EMEA CIO Practice Head at Korn Ferry. Kevin suggests the modern CIO needs a “split personality:” on the one hand the energetic and innovative persona driving investment in new digital systems, and on the other the individual who ensures five 9s availability and who is still trying to rationalize hundreds of legacy applications and refresh an underinvested infrastructure.
“You’re seeing a demand for both styles in CIO appointments,” says Kevin. “On the one hand, companies want a CIO with an innovative technology agenda. But on the other hand, companies want someone who can rationalize the legacy and dramatically overhaul the cost base.”
While it might be tempting to forget the legacy systems, the hard truth is that many of those older systems are not just crucial for day-to-day operation, but are themselves a critical foundation for newer digital front-ends, if managed and standardized effectively.
That’s why many companies are looking for CIOs who can work with both legacy and newer systems. “As the CIO, you’re still required to pull together technology, business strategy and data. That hasn’t changed,” says Kevin. But most companies also want their CIO to be a proactive agent of change, a top-notch senior executive who can guide the enterprise smoothly into the future.
“Today, the C-suite is much more aware of technology. They know about tech because they use it in their everyday lives. And they want to know how they can use the tech around them to drive new revenues, open new channels for sales and compete successfully in new markets,” says Kevin.
Kevin has definitely hit the proverbial nail on the head. The modern CIO needs that unique ability to look in two directions at the same time, and strike a good balance between continuity and disruption. Continuity keeps the business going, but disruption makes it grow.
Please consider attending one of our upcoming summits. We look forward to seeing you there and hearing your viewpoints on our exciting journey to the future of technology leadership.