TechRepublic – Why do CIOs still need technical skills?

Takeaway: Scott Lowe says CIOs need to be business leaders first and technologists second, but there needs to be a good balance.

CIOs need to be business leaders. That is an incontrovertible fact. Over the years, however, much has been written by people who believe that a CIO can be fully successful without knowing anything about what’s really keeping the lights on. The tone of these articles often seems to suggest that companies can simply pluck someone out of finance or sales and thrust them into the job of the CIO and expect the rainbow and leprechaun to appear with the pot of gold. After all, IT isn’t really about technology, right? It’s about getting business done using technology.

Before I get into a discussion, let me ask a follow up set of questions:

Would you hire a CFO that had only ancillary experience in finance?
Would you hire a VP for Sales that didn’t know the sales process from start to finish?

I’d bet that the answer to both of these questions is “No”. Why, then, do some companies believe that a CIO can simply be plucked from the fold without specific background or training in techology? After all, no matter how strategic the efforts of an IT group, if the “lights go out”, that’s all that’s going to matter. That is, if the basics that people have come to expect fail to be met, it won’t matter how experienced or inexperienced the CIO.

It’s important to understand that I don’t believe that the CIO needs to be the “alpha tech” in the office. After all, except in very small organizations, the CIO probably won’t be configuring switches, creating LUNs on a SAN or making sure that VMware is configured to fail over. However, the CIO should:

  • Know what is and is not possible - to a reasonable extent - with the network hardware on hand.
  • Understand - at least at a basic level - what it means to create a LUN and how much capacity there is in the organization.
  • Realize that VMware can be configured for automated failover to meet disaster recovery requirements.

More of the TechRepublic article from Scott Lowe

Alex Carroll

Alex Carroll

Managing Member at Lifeline Data Centers
Alex, co-owner, is responsible for all real estate, construction and mission critical facilities: hardened buildings, power systems, cooling systems, fire suppression, and environmentals. Alex also manages relationships with the telecommunications providers and has an extensive background in IT infrastructure support, database administration and software design and development. Alex architected Lifeline’s proprietary GRCA system and is hands-on every day in the data center.
Alex Carroll