I had an excellent conversation with my good friend Mark Polansky recently, and I want to share some of the highlights with you. Mark is a Senior Partner at Korn Ferry's Information Technology Officers Center of Expertise, a practice he has led for over 12 years.
My conversation with Mark focused mainly on one of our favorite topics: the continuously evolving role of the CIO in the modern enterprise. One area that is often overlooked is the CIO's increasing responsibility for assembling teams of external partners to accomplish mission-critical tasks. In the past, most of those critical tasks, in addition to the technologies required to support them, would have been handled in-house by the IT department.
As we all know, however, modern markets move at extreme velocities. Today's CIO cannot simply tell the business to wait 18 months while IT builds a homegrown solution. By the time a homegrown solution is built and deployed, the business will have moved on to a new set of challenges.
Smart CIOs operate like M&A specialists. They have to know which vendors provide the right services and which vendors they can trust. They also need the leadership skills for managing teams of vendors over extended periods of time, under highly fluid and often unpredictable conditions.
"The modern CIO puts together technology ecosystems," Mark says. "CIOs create and manage partnerships between hardware, software and service providers. They understand that a viable technology ecosystem is a complex web of vendors and service providers. It's very much like an M&A activity, and there are lots of moving parts and complicated relationships."
I really like how Mark describes the 21st century technology ecosystem as a vast and complex web of companies. Managing those kinds of ecosystems requires exceptional leadership skills and a deep understanding of how different kinds of technology interact in real-world situations.
"Today's CIOs cannot sit on their laurels and they cannot deliver services the old-fashioned way," Mark says. "The mantra now is that if you can't digitize and disrupt your own business, you're leaving the door open for a competitor who is faster and more agile than you are. Then you will be playing catch-up, and that's usually a losing game."
The image of the CIO as a team builder fits perfectly with my concept of the CIO as the new "CEO of Technology." When you think about it, great CEOs are almost always great team builders and team leaders. They understand that no single part of the enterprise can get the job done all by itself - success requires all hands on deck, working together smoothly and effectively, under difficult circumstances.
From my perspective, this is a great time to be a CIO. There's no shortage of challenges and opportunities. The real question is this: Are you ready to become the CEO of Technology?