CIO: the toughest job in the C-Suite?


With CEOs cutting IT costs and online commerce models becoming outdated almost as soon as they are released, ORESA asks: is the Chief Information Officer the toughest job in the C-Suite? 

In November 2015, Mark Hurd, the CEO of tech behemoth Oracle, was giving a talk to the Georgia CIO Leadership Association’s annual awards breakfast, where he set out his approach to business. Success, according to Hurd, is built upon three foundations: strategy, operating model and people. Although the nuts and bolts of the presentation specifically focused on the paradigm shift from on-premise software to cloud computing, Hurd’s wisdom could have been applied to any industry equally.

What was most intriguing from our point of view was Hurd’s opinion that CIOs currently occupy the toughest position in the C-suite. We’d have to agree with him. We look around at the current retail market and see CEOs cutting IT costs in the face of falling margins and CIOs having to play catch-up with online commerce models that feel outdated almost as soon as they’re rolled out.

“If you’re CIO of the year and you can operate in this environment, you have my admiration,” said Hurd. “This is really, really hard.”

Now, Hurd’s comments were couched within his big pitch for cloud computing, but that shouldn’t detract from the fact that he is absolutely correct: CIOs have never had it so tough.

A moving target

The rate of change in the information space is so rapid that operating models and company strategies are in a state of constant flux, reacting to every single data point that becomes available. No sooner is one strategy implemented than a shift in technology and/or consumer digital habits forces another change in direction. Staying relevant isn’t a generational problem anymore: it needs to be addressed month on month.

Furthermore, cybersecurity needs are growing exponentially. As we saw in 2016 with Three Mobile and others, data breaches put millions of people at risk and can have a cataclysmic effect on the reputation and fate of a business. According to the Spiceworks tech career survey, 62% of IT leaders see cybersecurity as a key skill to develop for 2017 (read our blog piece with Stuart Jubb, Director at Crossword Security).

Burn-out and skill-gaps

If this wasn’t enough to think about, CIOs also have to contend with the increasingly complex structures within their IT divisions in a time of widespread skill shortages, terrible diversity and CEOs looking to cut costs. According to the Spiceworks career outlook survey, 40% of IT professionals were burnt out in their current role, while 38% of those surveyed were looking to find a better work-life balance.

It is clear that CIOs are currently being tested on a number of levels, which makes appointing the right one even more critical. At ORESA, our refined search process ensures that we find the very best and most talented individuals to ensure your business grows substantially. To find out more, get in touch at [email protected].

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