These are the key strengths that the leading CIOs exhibited and were used as the criteria
for the judgement of the CIO 100. The same strengths were used to assess the submissions by
CIOs to the CIO 100.
Transformation cannot take place in organisations that do not have strong and reliable
technology so that the CIO can focus on the transformation agenda. "IT operation is a very
important thing" says Ade McCormack.
CIOs should challenge the organisation to re-consider its processes and make better use of
technology. Those CIOs clearly forcing the organisation to reconsider its operations were
scored highly. "Are they people who have transformed the organisation and taken innovation
to the board and created new ways of operating" says Jerry Fishenden.
During the assessment of the CIO 100 it became clear that not all organisations have a board
of directors or that the board of directors is always the right place for the CIO to be
influencing, but influence on the top level of decision makers was seen as imperative by the
CIO 100 judging panel. "What is important is that they are prepared to engage with conversations
that are about understanding business strategy and being pro-active about turning those ideas
into advice" says Neil Ward-Dutton.
Being a CIO is a leadership role and therefore a team leader. The panel felt that CIOs had to
exhibit good communication skills to their teams, to the business and to the technology
With technology becoming commoditised the IT vendor community will have to shift its
relationship with business and CIOs away from merely one of selling kit to a greater
level of service and relationship. For IT vendors to complete this shift they will need
take onboard the lessons CIOs can offer and the panel felt that the CIOs in the 100 should
be judged on the influence they have on the vendor community as reflected through their
The panel agreed that CIOs need to be the entrepreneur within organisations that can
demonstrate new business models and opportunities that technology allow. "Entrepreneurship
is a key train in a CIO, the question is how you create an internal charging model of having
a profit mindset" says Mike Altendorf.
The subservient CIO no longer has a place in today's economy and the panel felt that leading
CIOs need to be visionaries, bursting with ideas for what an organisation could do, and also
what technology can do. "The CIO will be at the front of the business doing innovative stuff
that is needed to create competitive edge" says Richard Sykes.
The location is Mayfair, London. More precisely Dartmouth House, home of the English Speaking
Union (ESU) since 1927, and a fine London town house previously owned by various aristocratic
families over several centuries. Winston Churchill is amongst those to have visited the
building regularly, but on a cold crisp day in December 2011 it was a small group of CIO
editors, contributors and senior IT industry and CIO advisers who got together to consider
the list of candidates for the CIO 100 and identify the top contenders for the 2012 list.
In the refined location of Dartmouth House's Small Drawing Room, amongst walnut dining
furniture, draped windows and elegant stucco decoration, the group got down to its business,
directed by CIO's Editor-in-Chief, Mark Chillingworth. Sustained by copious mineral water,
regular coffee injections and a fine selection of sandwiches and bon bouchÃ©e, the group spent several hours identifying those UK CIOs who have shown us all the way to perform at the highest level in 2011.
Winston's phlegmatic ghost watched over them as they debated the issues. But what was this
august selection committee actually looking for? What are the attributes of a great CIO?
And if you didn't make the grade this year, how can you make sure you are on the list next
First of all, and somewhat paradoxically, the panel unanimously concluded that you don't
actually have to be called a CIO to be a top UK CIO. The CIO's core skills are a trinity
encapsulated on our own masthead: Business, technology and leadership. But our panel was
well aware that the title of Chief Information Officer is not a universally held or
recognised one in the UK. There are exemplar CIO's with business cards that say Chief
Technology Officer, IT Director or may even carry a non-technology job title. Equally
there are titular CIO's that are little more than 'laptop fixers' (to quote one panel member's
description), and who definitely wouldn't make the grade. The key, therefore, is to be
operating strongly across all three of these key CIO functions.
The kind of company you work in is also a significant consideration, and proved to be an area
of substantial debate: Some companies are highly innovative in their use of technology to
promote and push their business, whilst others are not. But to what extent does this company
ethos reflect on the CIO? The general view was that a truly innovative professional would
either be pushing a change agenda very hard within a more staid company, or moving on to find
a place where they could exercise their skills properly. Being stuck in a backwater would
quickly become a limiter for any top-flight CIO...
By extension this means that successful CIOs must be working in companies alongside other
board members who also recognise the transformative power of technology and are prepared to
discuss this regularly at board meetings. Having a voice on the company board is therefore
essential, whether directly or via a short, sympathetic, reporting line.
Key questions asked of all the candidates on our list were; How engaged is the CIO in the
company's business and strategy; how well does he or she understand the external customer;
How much does the CIO contributing to business ideas (as opposed to pure technology ideas)
benefiting the company?
Less surprisingly, the panel was also looking for concrete examples of innovation from CIOs
under consideration. Innovation comes in many forms: It could be the use of a new technology
to achieve a business objective. It could just as easily be a new way of marshalling resources
or using services or outsourcing to business advantage. The key measure was the amount of
influence a CIO had on their company's strategy. Sometimes this ties in to broader company
fortunes too; A CIO may be able to (need to) transform operations one year, but look a lot
less innovative the following year. The broad view of the panel was that more operational
roles were less likely to be able to show such transformation, and so might signify an
operational CTO or IT Director (where those job titles apply) type role.
Company complexity is also a consideration. Driving through cultural and transformational
change in a huge multinational corporation is clearly a much greater challenge that doing
the same thing in a company of just a few hundred employees. Equally, if the change is
being driven from elsewhere (an overseas headquarters operation for example), the domestic
CIO's role may be much more an operations and implementation one, and so not meet some of our
other criteria, however impressive the change agenda might look.
Finally, how well does the CIO manage his or her communications, both internally and to the
wider world? In many cases not that well it would seem: The panel noted the relative lack of
CIOs using broader communications media like Twitter to communicate to the wider audience
about what they are doing for example.
Ultimately, the single characteristic which represents the sum of the parts was the
transformational one. The best CIOs are those implementing transformational change to
benefit the businesses they represent. The fact that we were able to discuss a large
number of candidates doing exactly that shows that, for the best candidates, current
business difficulties have just inspired new and innovative solutions.
Churchill's ghost must have smiled on the CIO 100 panel as they deliberated these thorny
issues. He would certainly have the necessary skills. There is no question on the leadership.
His recognition of the use of technology as a transformative tool was also clear; From
Dreadnoughts in 1914 to Bletchley Park in the Second World War, Churchill knew that the
appropriate application of technology could transform Britain's standing. And if his
'business' during the Second World War was the continued survival of the nation, then it must
surely be agreed that he was a resounding success.