Should CIOs be hired from business? T G Dhandapani, Advisor – Digital Transformation & former Group CIO at TVS Motor and Sundaram Clayton Group, says yes!
There are two kinds of organizations. One is where a user applies IT for business and the other where the user are the producer of IT products or services. In the case of former, the degree of business knowledge and technology knowledge is 70:30 whereas in the case of latter, the ratio of business acumen to technology is 40:60. Nevertheless, business knowledge is dominant in both the cases.
Take for instance, in a manufacturing industry, IT is the tool to enable business processes and drive business targets. IT should align with business strategies and provide solutions to do business better and smarter.
This thorough knowledge of business is only possible if the IT head is from the business side. Understanding organization culture, user behavior, business requirements and effective solutioning for an IT deployment is possible if he/she is from business. Today it is not adequate for the CIO to just respond to business requirements. He/she has to be at least six months ahead of his CXO peers when it comes to planning and executing digital projects. He/she should be in a position to predict what business wants six months later. Any requirements that a CXO/business peer required yesterday or were planned by the CIO after they were asked by business, isn't sufficient anymore. They should be in a position to perform shelf engineering and keep the solution(s) ready before the business demands for it.
Today IT is not confined to datacenters. The IT folk should rub shoulders with CXOs and dirty their palms on the shop floor. Vanilla CIOs, purely with technology backgrounds, will take more time to understand and implement solutions for business. Moreover, effective communication and perseverance is the key to successful adoption of IT. Communication should be in a language that business can understand— and it should be certainly more than expounding technology jargons. Pure technology CIOs exhibit this personality and as a result, many IT projects fail.