Because IT systems are so critical for companies in every industry today, eventually most organizations choose to hire a CIO to set the technical direction and oversee its implementation. Adding any C-level executive role has a major impact on the dynamics of corporate management, so selecting the right CIO is about more than just technical knowledge. CIOs should bring the following key characteristics with them to the business.
CIOs should be able to understand the company's vision for its business and be able to generate an information technology vision that supports the business vision. This requires more than superficial knowledge of the business; there's a need for in-depth knowledge of the domain. Previous work experience in your industry is helpful, but also look for a CIO who shares your passion for growing the company.
New technology is often sold as the answer to all problems, and as far more simple to integrate than it really is. CIOs need to know how to dig beyond the sales pitches to understand what the technology really can do for the business as well as how complex and disruptive it will be. Because technology changes constantly, look for a CIO who demonstrates curiosity and actively seeks to learn about new technology. You need someone you can trust to set your direction in the future, not just make choices about the technologies you hear about today.
CIOs need to be able to effectively communicate with the CEO, their management peers, and more junior managers and staff. Marshaling arguments that persuade a CEO is one thing; convincing the IT team that has to do the hands-on work of a new technology or new process's value is something else. The CIO should be able to discuss the benefits of a technology in nontechnical terms when talking with business management, and also be comfortable using technical language when talking with the tech team.
The main advantage having a CIO can bring to a company is using their business vision, technical understanding, and leadership skills to envision new ways of doing things. Using either the company's existing technical capability or through new technology, the CIO needs to create new ways of satisfying the business's technical needs. Done well, the CIO ensures that new technologies keep the company competitive and support its success.