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Is Your Boss Ready to be the Next CEO?

by Dave Hannon

October 25, 2011

By Dave Hannon

@Daveatwispubs

Pop Quiz: Can you name a company outside the technology sector that has as its current CEO someone that came up through IT? (Not sure I could without Google's help).

It's rare. But there are a few indicators that suggest the continuing value shown by both IT products, like ERP systems, and IT professionals could vault more IT professionals into the C-suite.

Okay, here's some data for those who require it before forming opinions on such matters. According to this survey from CA Technologies, 55% of CIOs see their current role as gateways to general management positions. And 44% of them think CEO is an attainable position.

The CA survey goes on to say: "As the CIO's focus and responsibilities expand to include strategic management of core business functions, so the CEO's focus when selecting a successor should widen to consider the possibility of transitioning your CIO into a central management role. This may be progression to COO, where they
can gain additional experience in business management while offering technological insight at board level, or even straight into the CEO's chair."

(By the way, this survey has a lot of great points--definitely worth a read for those interested in this topic).

And when you really think about some of the most important priorities for CIOs today, you realize they do map up very well to what shareholders would want to see from their CEOs.

For example, based on a few different surveys and reports, these are most of the t op issues CIOs are concerned with (in no particular order):

  • Achieving ROI on investments
  • Controlling costs/Doing more with less
  • Managing project-based initiatives (setting benchmarks, building teams, etc.)
  • Compliance issues
  • Post-merger integration
  • IT security
  • Leveraging mobile/social in the business
  • Building cross-functional harmony within a business
  • Staffing/retention issues

They're all things that businesses of all types should have high on the priority list. Yet despite this kind of evidence, there are indications that the IT organization continues to have an image problem and as long as it does, it likely won't be an organization that produces CEOs. This Gartner survey earlier this year indicates that only 32% of CFOs see the CIO as a strategic partner and the finance organization, for example, and 70% of finance executives do not believe that IT is providing business benefits.

Crazy right? In my job here at SAPinsider and insiderPROFILES, I have the pleasure of interviewing IT executives on a daily basis. And from my perspective, there's no doubt that many CIOs and IT professionals understand the business well enough to lead a non-IT business unit or even become the CEO of a non-tech firm. Because in the IT organization--especially one that has implemented an ERP system like SAP--you HAVE to understand a variety of business objectives at all different levels, not just the highest level, to achieve your goals. And that broad perspective is something that some CEOs may lack.

Maybe the CIO's time has come? What do you think?

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