Making the Transition from CIO to COO and Beyond

5 June 2018 by Chris Chandler

3 minutes (702 Words)

It wasn’t long ago that the death of the CIO was being predicted. Boards and executive committees were becoming wary of techspeak as they increasingly saw themselves as victims of technology-led projects that were expensive, lengthy and resulted in indeterminate or disappointing outcomes.

As a result of such projects, businesses changed the way they did things. For a time IT, and therefore the reporting line of the CIO, began shifting towards business-facing units (CFOs, COOs and others with no technical background). Success with this solution has not always worked, however, and confusion and unpredictability are often still evident.

Today the role of the CIO is becoming clearer. Most but not all CIOs have a seat on their companies’ executive committees as technology has become central to business operations and success. CIOs are making the transition to COO and CEO as execs are now increasingly interested in putting someone with a strong technical background on their boards.

Successful CIOs are bridging, blurring and removing the gap between the business and technology. They are making board and executive conversations comprehensive and collaborative and they are making delivery more business-focussed and predictable. At the same time, these super-CIOs are demonstrating the benefits of keeping business units, operations and IT working together in close partnership.

So how can a rising CIO become the super-CIO? More critically, how can the CIO get a position on the executive committee and make the transition to COO and even CEO? And finally, how can the CIO make a difference to the business and the customer?

We spoke to Dana Cuffe who made the move to COO of Aldermore Bank after being CIO at places like Renaissance Re, TPG-Axon Capital, Global Asset Management and Egg. Dana gave us his insight on how CIOs today can begin preparing to make the transition into the role of the COO and beyond.

Here are Dana’s 5 key points for CIOs to consider before making the transition to COO and beyond:

1. Focus on the business

Unless you are selling technology, you are not running a technology business. Many CIOs focus too much on the tech. This creates a divide between the business and technology. Additionally, a good CIO will help everyone in IT become a member of the business team by connecting every role, function and technical asset to the customer and to the business functions that support them.

2. Always look to simplify

Boards, executive committees and others are hungry for simpler, more straightforward solutions. They want solutions that they can track to bottom-line results. This is where decisions on what to outsource and what must be performed in-house are key. Always look for the “best, first deliverable.” In other words, something that is measurable, manageable and delivers a significant business outcome. Then build on this success.

3. Manage delivery of (business) outcomes, not projects

This is probably where most CIOs make their biggest mistake. The CIO that focuses more on the technical outcome than the business outcome will not make the transition to COO. Too many businesses have suffered because of “technical glory projects”. All outcomes related to any technical delivery should be tied to a business outcome.

4. See and present technology as one of the weapons in your arsenal, not the only weapon

This is probably the second biggest problem for the CIO that wants to transition. To make that move the CIO is going to have to become a business person and partner with business heads. This means knowing all the functions of the board’s business units as well as they do. This way you can use technology to facilitate the delivery of their business goals and the company’s strategy.

5. Communicate, communicate – and did I say communicate?

Even though technology has been around for decades, it’s changing just fast enough to confuse boards and make executives anxious and wary. Finding non-technical ways to help others feel closer to the problem, will help them to be closer to the solution. In the end, most business people don’t care about the technology, they care about the customer and the bottom line of the business.

Have something to add? Don’t hesitate to get in touch to join the conversation.

Chris Chandler | LinkedIn |

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Chris Chandler

Head of Technology Practice - Executive Search