Today if a CIO is in charge of IT transformation globally, he can lead the transformation in any industry, says Sunil Mehta, senior VP & area systems director (central Asia), JWT
At a CIO level, I do not believe that vertical specialization is important. Most CIOs I know in the industry today have worked across sectors – gaining a wide-range of domain expertise. In the past when CIOs were EDP managers, they were responsible for driving change with the help of technology. Today technology has enabled organizations to drive that change. At J. Walter Thompson, the IT department has put the mandate on the finance department to choose their finance solution. While the IT department deploys it, the finance department is empowered to select the right solution as per their needs.
Times have changed. Today if a CIO is in charge of IT transformation globally, he can lead the transformation in any industry. The truth is that a CIO's overall experience matters more than his/her vertical specialization, which comes handy only when a domain-related implementation is taking place.
Let me give you another example. Until a few years ago, CIOs were in charge of enterprise IT, infrastructure and security. Today because of digital, if CIOs have not kept themselves relevant, they will lose their jobs and companies will hire people who are young with relevant skills. However, just hiring a digital expert won't ensure that he/she will also be able to perform a CIO's responsibilities. The CIO role is transforming into a digital specialist and he/she doesn't have to become an expert overnight. However, he or she should be able to use the expertise in one area or vertical to make a difference in the other.
If a CEO can be hired without any vertical specialization, so can a CIO. So if a CEO knows how to run the organization, CIOs know how to run IT, irrespective of the sector they work in or have worked in. But at the same time, there are several CIOs who have evolved, but there are also those who won't transform or step out of their comfort zones.
As told to Shubhra Rishi, Associate Editor, CIO&Leader