A quick list of suggestions for interviewing and hiring a new CIO…

  • CIOs are kind of like NFL coaches, who are either Offense or Defense specialists.  Generally we come up either the apps/data or the ops/infrastructure/security side of the career ladder.  Some may have experience in a smaller company on both sides, but they may have blind spots or not have a mature framework to think about the role.  This difference is greatly reduced once someone has been a CIO, because if they’re smart, they likely climbed the learning curve quickly on the other side once they got that responsibility.
  • Most of the issues first-time CIOs often experience occur in leadership/culture, or from the other side of the ball where they’re weakest, so it’s often wise to choose someone from the side where your company feels weakest.  e.g. if your systems are stable and secure, but none of the reports are very useful, look for a candidate with an applications/data background.
  • If the other side of the ball has a good “coordinator” who’s put you in a good position, you may want to give them assurances of support, as I’ve seen good people leave if they feel “passed over” or threatened by a new CIO with a very different background
  • In my experience, applications & data leaders are more likely to align strategy to the business’ positioning vs. seeing technical objectives as equally important as growth/capability targets.  Not always true but there’s usually more of a tech purist heart in infrastructure/operations/security types which led them to those interests early in their career, vs. a tech impact heart in applications/data people.
  • Engaging an experienced consultant for the CIO transition can be a wise investment to give the new CIO a sounding board and advisor who’s been around the block seeing both sides of the ball, especially if there are major turnaround issues, culture challenges, etc.
  • Separate from the decision on a transition consultant, unless the candidate comes in with a proven track record/references as a CIO, you will absolutely want to engage an IT leader/expert to interview a CIO candidate to make sure their tech approach is sound