Get, Set, CIO!

C-Suite execs share their expectations about skills and experience that can make IT managers ready for the top job

All chiefs, without exception, agree that for IT managers, business and managerial skill development and understanding corporate goals and strategies are as critical as becoming the CEO of the department or enterprise. IT Next survey also reveals that nearly 80 per cent of CIOs and IT managers agree that it is important to contribute to business growth by acquiring the best skills possible.

All Cs echoed that future CIOs should start minding the entire business and not just IT. That clearly means that all skills under the business and managerial skills umbrella would lead to the path of adorning the role of a CEO in the long run. As for becoming a CIO, all pre-requisites of a business head are imperative.

For CIO Girish Rao, Head-IT, Marico Industries, mapping the value of the change and business impact due to the increased use of technology is a priority. IT managers need to focus on imbibing people management and talent management capabilities and channelise individuals to a newer growth path, he says.

T G Dhandapani, CIO of TVS Motors, does agree that understanding business needs and proactively developing IT strategy for business is important. Dhandapani reiterates that providing solutions for solving business problems will reduce or control cost but developing solutions to grab opportunities will bring more value to the organisation. IT managers should focus on Shelf Engineering and keep solutions ready in anticipation of future business expectations, says Dhandapani.

What does finance expect?
As the finance head, Rostow Ravanan, CFO, MindTree, lays emphasis on future CIOs to understand who the customers for the business are, at what price points these customers would buy the organisations products/services, and in that context, what technology solutions can add value (i.e., to either increase margins through cost savings, or increase sales or improve customer service levels etc) to the organisation.

Drive technology based innovations while proving how those solutions can add value for the organisation via thorough financial analysis, points out Ravanan. Be proactive, plan for growth, IT based threats etc. In todays world, IT systems are core for any organisation, so high availability of IT systems is also a critical factor for success. Deploying solutions around mobility is also necessary since todays workforce is more on the road, and also expected to be available 24x7, unlike before.

People skills, facilitation skills, business domain understanding, negotiation skills, finance awareness and a curiosity mindset to look at diverse tech trends and see how they can benefit his/her organisation are key, adds Ravanan.

Holding a finance portfolio, Narayan S Iyer, VP-Finance, Privy Organics, avers that IT managers should understand the pulse of the business that the company is in. I expect the CIO to deliver and ensure that the software or the ERP tool used to generate Financial Statements and MIS are free of any bug and error. As the organisation grows, and people become scarce, it is very important that systems are set right properly, thereby avoiding manual intervention. That apart, customised reports required for generating various types of MIS and Statutory payments must be correctly evolved. Lastly, a dashboard on the Finance heads PC to reflect major parameters like Sales, Bank Borrowings, collections, profitability etc., should also be evolved; this will help in taking any strategic decision, he says.

Iyer adds, The CIO of any company should definitely understand the corporate goals and strategies to formulate and evolve an IT system which will ensure and take care of not only todays requirement of the enterprise but also take care of the next 5 to 7 years of the companys growth.

From a CEOs perspective, K Vaitheeswaran, CEO, India Plaza, admits, Five years back, I would not have expected the CIO and team to think business. Now, I want my IT team to not only provide the platform for e-commerce, but expect them to track consumer behaviour, buying patterns, personalisation and monetisation of the information drawn through social media, and overall, be a businessman.

It is also important to use technology to figure out changes in the consumer behaviour and demand.

I think there should be a cultural shift in how IT is treated and bring in the required change in the attitude among various teams towards IT and vice versa, remarks Vaitheeswaran. To enable this, I am following a reverse flow; I brought in a structure where the software engineering and development team report to the marketing head. The early results, according to him, are encouraging.

As a future CIO, Ajit Awasare, DGM-IT, Larsen & Toubro, points out that the CIO can influence the profitability, market reach and availability of products using innovative approaches based on customer needs.

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