Seven Habits of the Highly Successful CIO | Straight Talk


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Being a CIO today requires a whole new set of skills and traits. Here’s a starter list from a CIO with an unusual perspective on the job.

By Brian Adams, CIO and Director of Procurement, WorleyParsons

A wise man once said to me, “Brian, there are only two types of people in the world: the maintainers and the changers.” I’ve always chosen to be a changer.

Most of my career steps have reflected my desire to round out gaps in functional and operational expertise. I’ve had marketing, services, manufacturing, and finance roles. I’ve worked at companies ranging from Caterpillar to a mining consultancy to Ernst & Young.

But when I talk about myself as a changer, I don’t just mean in my career moves. I’ve also actively sought roles that provide fantastic change management challenges. When I joined WorleyParsons eight years ago, I first managed strategy and development for the Australia and New Zealand region and then I led the regional finance group as the regional CFO.

In that position, I was forever poking sharp sticks at the IT function, not because they weren’t doing a good job, but because they were not engaged with the business. They were like maintainers. If there’s one thing that has become apparent to me from my years outside IT looking in, it is that IT must be an organization of changers. The enterprise of the 21st century — an era that is (as they say in the military) “VUCA”: volatile, uncertain, changing, and ambiguous — requires an innovative, strategic, and business-aligned IT function, which means the role of a CIO is changing. Our CEO at the time agreed. And he turned me from poacher into gamekeeper, giving me my first CIO role.

I believe this varied background provides me with an interesting perspective on the capabilities that a CIO needs in order to succeed in this new world. We are at a tipping point, and the traditional CIO has to change to meet the demands of the business. If that doesn’t happen, there’s going to be a lot of turnover in the position. As I’ve settled in to this latest leadership challenge, I’ve put together a list of the skills and traits I believe are critical for CIOs leading IT organizations today.

1. Take a Walk on the Non-IT Side

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