4 Habits of Successful CIOs

Shining the spotlight on effective CIOs, Gartner Inc. has identified the four key habits the top level corporate IT executives use when creating leadership agendas: shaping demand, setting expectations, being able to deliver and being able to effectively lead.

“Delivering profitable business value from IT hinges on the particular working style of CIOs and the thoroughness of their agendas,” according to Chris Goodhue, vice president with Gartner Executive Programs (GartnerEXP). “The four key habits of CIOs are recognizable in CIOs who separate themselves from the pack and sustain high visibility and influence within the senior leadership team.”

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The four key skills were unveiled this week at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in San Diego, and are part of Gartner’s CIO Executive Success Cycle, a tool for CIOs to use when shaping their roles and creating leadership agendas.

The four key habits and their traits are:

  • Shaping demand: This includes knowing and understanding the business and engaging with key decision-makers. “Being at the top gives CIOs the best vantage point,” says Goodhue. “CIOs should position themselves so that they are able to identify needs early and influence what peers, subordinates, management and business partners expect from them.”
  • Setting expectations: Key to this habit are identifying trade-offs and being able to negotiate a win-win. “Negotiations are tricky. CIOs need to analyze the supply side carefully so that they know exactly what is possible. They must be able to clarify critical trade-offs and negotiate effectively without souring relationships so that expectations are met,” Goodhue says.
  • Delivering: This means a CIO is able to use architectures and timetables to drive delivery, along with forming partnerships to enable timely delivery. “CIOs must address shifting business needs with partnerships, and use architectures and demanding timetables to drive changes in the way the IS organization performs,” says Goodhue. “Relying on architectures and demanding time frames can make a substantial difference.”
  • The ability to lead: CIOs must exhibit strong leadership qualities and lead by influence. Goodhue says: “This is a tough job. The job description calls for someone who can lead the IS function and external suppliers to ever-higher levels of performance, while also being coach, mentor, service provider and public relations person for fellow executives and the CEO.”

Although the four habits may been seen in sequence, Goodhue says “in the real world they are not. They are applied in the order dictated by circumstance. Nevertheless, they are a cycle. Success at one habit can build on abilities in others, just as failure in one area undermines performance in another.”