Seven Habits of the Effective Hybrid CIO


A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend an event in New York to hear Michael Dell share the Dell Technologies vision and strategy for the Internet of Things (IoT). The number of connected devices and sensors is growing exponentially every day, with analyst firm Gartner predicting the number of IoT devices will hit 20.8 billion by 2020, all of which will generate incredible amounts of data. But the big question is – how can businesses analyze that data and turn it into innovation and progress to transform their business, deliver more for their customers and ultimately drive increased revenue?

Data is the next big challenge for every CIO, and their role is to help direct the CEO towards innovation to help turn data into insights, understanding not only the technological aspects, but the broader business implications for IT investments. As Dell EMC EMEA CIO Chris Murphy states in our Connected CIO publication, the CIO is no longer playing a back-office support role. It is this combination of business acumen and technology expertise that define a new breed of CIO – the Hybrid CIO.

Hybrid CIOs are exactly what organizations need to embrace digital and leverage it to transform their business and emerge as a winner. Travelling around the region, I’ve had an opportunity to see this transformative Hybrid CIO in action, and would call out seven characteristics that they seem to demonstrate:

1. A DNA for Business Acumen

The Hybrid CIO may still be a technician, yet they couple that technical insight with market knowledge. They have the power to focus on those digital trends and technological evolutions that bring added value to the company’s business strategy. Business acumen is also the mindset that the Hybrid CIO instills in the IT Management Team, and the entire IT department. “What value does this project bring to our company”, is the first question that anyone in IT must ask themselves when embarking on a project. It is also a question the CIO will challenge his or her business colleagues with.

2. A Driving Force Behind Innovation

This is the part of the job the Hybrid CIO may still be most excited by – with keeping up to speed on all the latest developments in technology being the reason they pursued this vocation. Technology IS important so it is imperative to recognize which innovations make the business stand out. This means the CIO doesn’t only look at large established vendors, but also those with a startup mentality who may have the type of view on the world your business needs. The Hybrid CIO allows the team to experiment and encourages them to learn from their failures.

3. Courage to Keep Their Eye on the Ball

The most important trait of the Hybrid CIO is courage. At times, they may feel like Columbus, steering a ship to uncharted territories. In charge of the digital agenda, the CIO is the explorer, and not everyone will necessarily agree with the course being mapped out. It is all too easy to give in to demands where other executives have set their own agenda, but this is a temptation that must be resisted. As a Hybrid CIO, they have to stick to their guns, while always keeping an eye on the ultimate goal.

4. Diplomatic Skills to Keep Everyone on Board

Technology has become so pervasive that every line of business has become tech-savvy while feeling entitled to their own IT budget and decision-making power. In many cases, this has led to a situation in which Shadow IT blossomed while the IT department lost control over digital projects, often to the detriment of information security. The Hybrid CIO is able to convince C-level colleagues to involve IT in digital budget decisions and minimally stick to a number of standards that the company has defined. Moments like these are excellent to test the strong communication skills of the CIO, and their ability to motivate and influence others.

5. Integrator – Tying Everything Together

IT is at the heart of any organization’s digital transformation, and the CIO’s office is where it all comes together. Whether projects emanate from IT itself, from the CEO or any other business executive, the Hybrid CIO ties it all together. They set the pace for the innovation, balancing what investments are made to simply keep the engines running, and what buckets are set aside for innovation. The Hybrid CIO has two feet on the accelerator as they are now leading a dual-speed business. As Gartner puts it, they manages two separate, coherent modes of IT delivery, one focused on predictability and the other on exploration. Constantly revving up the innovative projects, but keeping the infrastructure backbone that supports the business, strong.

6. A Strong Partner and Bridge-Builder

The Hybrid CIO is smart and humble enough to realize that they do not know everything, and that the IT department cannot specialize in every technological domain. That’s why it’s important to forge alliances while drawing in resources from service providers, vendors and consultants, while actively engaging in digital ecosystems. After all, everything is connected and companies that are part of a digital ecosystem outpace growth in their market.

7. A Mentor – Keeping Everyone Motivated

It is often said that people are the single biggest asset in a company. This needs to be recognized more than ever in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where knowledge is the critical ingredient in times of change. Technology changes in seconds and so must the skills of the people working in – and with technology. The Hybrid CIO handpicks the right team members, motivates them and gives them room to develop their own talents in order to achieve the goals of the organization. Hybrid CIOs lead by example, transferring their own leadership and communications skills to their teams.

Now, after reading this, you may be thinking that this is just too much for one person to take into consideration and excel in every area. From my personal perspective, I see the above traits as a continuum or journey that the CIO is currently on towards becoming a more ‘hybrid’ leader. It’s not ‘all or none’ – it’s some and some!

And I look forward to seeing how this challenging role will keep on evolving in the years to come.


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