Technology is getting easier and as a result, CIOs are looking for a broader range of skills when they hire. That was one of the general opinion from a CIO panel hosted by CIO publisher IDG in Toronto this week.
Helen Polatajko, CIO of CIBC Mellon, a joint venture between CIBC, Canada's fifth-largest bank, and financial services giant Mellon Financial, said technology knowledge still matters but "fit with the team is more important." She has 120 people in her group and recently hired a dedicated human resources person.
Loren Hicks, CIO of Lavalife, a $100-million provider of technology-based meeting services for singles, agreed that knowledge is easier to access now and said he puts a priority on passion when he hires for his team of 70. "I look for passion about something – it doesn't have to be about IT – figuring that passion will translate to work," he said.
The CIOs were in general agreement that technology advances also are making it easier to deal with senior business management, because its commoditisation has led to a somewhat better understanding of what is technologically feasible.
"In the old days the joke was, you'd put a PC on the president's desk and he wouldn't know how to turn it on," Hicks said. It's better now, but business management still needs to take more responsibility for harnessing the power of technology. "It's not all tech's fault. Nine woman can't make a baby in a month. It's the business side's responsibility, too."
The more business managers learn, the less time is wasted nay-saying requests, the CIOs agreed.
"We have to teach them," said Ted Maulucci, CIO of Tridel, a leading builder of condominiums in the greater Toronto area. He requires his teams to attend writing courses and some sales training to help in this regard.
Running the IT group as a business within CIBC Mellon, Polatajko has direct input at the highest levels of the company, reporting to the CEO.
At the same time, however, the CIOs also agreed that technology management requires more business knowledge than ever. "Everyone has to be very business-savvy," she said. "You can no longer just be a technologist."
One of the topics the conversation turned to was outsourcing, and the group was generally enthusiastic. Maulucci said he had outsourced Exchange and web support successfully.
But Polatajko noted that managing outsourcing relationships isn't easy. "It is something like a marriage," she said. "You have to work at it. I agree that it is the way to go, but [service-level agreements] are never as tight as you thought."