Committee Member, KeyCorp and former CIO of Georgia Pacific Corporation. “All of these issues have technology at their core. The effective and innovative use of information and technology are the heart of strategies within both manufacturing and service industries. The pulse is the speed in which technology changes, which requires having someone on the board who knows the technologies that are here and around the corner that could transform competition.”
Finding the Right CIO Candidate
In our experience, CIO director- candidates with the breadth of business and technology understanding that are required to make a real contribution to board deliberations are most likely to come from large companies, like the Fortune 250. In these global, complex organizations the role of the CIO has evolved into a position that today combines traditional technology responsibilities with the general management responsibilities of a COO. These CIOs may negotiate deals on behalf of the company with a variety of third parties and outsourcing organizations or they may create a captive outsourcing organization. To perform successfully these CIOs must be able to integrate their mastery of technology, understanding of business processes, and thorough knowledge of the business and industry into a comprehensive vision of the company and execute against it. In the largest companies they will often know more about the company’s business operations than business line managers or even the CEO.
Not surprisingly, many CIOs have come up through the technology ranks and then stepped into
broader general management roles like COO or president of a business unit or large division. The president and COO of one of world’s most successful internet companies served as chief technology officer in his previous company, joined the internet company as CIO, rose to his present position and was recently elected to the board of a public software company. Sometimes the career trajectory runs in the opposite direction. The CIO of a leading building materials company came up through finance and then moved into technology mid-career and now sits on the boards of two companies.
But whether an individual moves from technology to general management, general management to technology, or acts as a CIO whose role is almost indistinguishable from that of a COO, the lesson remains the same: The success of large companies today greatly depends on top executives who can operate effectively in both spheres. Boards can reflect that new reality by considering candidates who have:
Operated an organization of scale, where scale may be defined in terms of geography, complexity of the business, multiple business units, or overall size in revenues, capital investments, and budgets
Demonstrated strong financial and operational skills as well as knowledge of the business and industry
Addressed operational and business risk across the many vulnerabilities in a complex, global organization
Moved up in a progressively responsible CIO career and later stepped into a full general management role, or moved from general management to absorb technology responsibilities
Presided over an operation as it globalized its business and customer base and addressed the impacts of sourcing and offshoring
Delivered significant business value
Such candidates not only have a broad perspective on business, they can also broaden the perspective of boards at a time when effective oversight and risk management require a comprehensive, integrated understanding of business and information technology. Such directors may not only help ensure business continuity following disasters but also—contrary to narrow perceptions of CIOs—help avert business disasters.
Jory Marino is managing partner of Heidrick & Struggles’Global CIO practice and NewYork-Park Avenue oce. Michael Nieset is a senior partner of Heidrick & StrugglesTechnology and Board of Directors practices.The authors can be contacted at email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 31.496.1345.
Boardroom Brieng: Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery