Study: CIOs must brush up on communication skills

Senior technology officers are under pressure to improve their communication and business skills as their role in guiding corporate strategy increases, according to a report published Monday.

Chief information officers (CIOs) said conveying technical information to non-technical employees is the most pressing challenge they face at work. In a poll of more than 1,400 CIOs in the United States, 40 per cent said putting technical information into non-technical terms was their greatest obstacle when working with end users, according to a summary of the report issued Monday by RHI Consulting in Menlo Park, Calif.

“We are seeing that CIOs and IT professionals are now playing an extremely critical role in developing corporate strategy,” said Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of RHI Consulting. “Companies want you to crunch code and secure networks and at the same time explain to the end user why and how you are doing it and what the benefits will be.”

During tough economic times in particular, companies are turning to CIOs for advice on how technology can be used to cut costs and increase returns on investment. In this type of environment, technology executives need strong communication skills to explain the benefits of particular technologies. CIOs who’ve brushed up on their communication skills can benefit most from the economy’s downturn and establish themselves as leaders within a company, according to Lee.

“The technical community has to realize that they need to be able to communicate on all levels,” Lee said. “We think the entire world knows what Java is, but there are people out there who still think that is coffee.”

Lee’s sentiments were echoed in a separate study published earlier this month by the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), which found that IT workers with strong communication skills are among the most prized workers in the industry. Among technology-driven companies, 77 per cent of the 685 IT managers said they look for interpersonal skills above all else in prospective employees, according to the ITAA study.

Besides good communications skills, 28 per cent of the CIOs questioned for the RHI Consulting study said prioritizing deadlines was the biggest challenge they face. A further 16 per cent said learning how to interact with different personalities was the main challenge, while 13 per cent cited managing stress in a crisis.

RHI Consulting, in Menlo Park, Calif., can be reached at More information about the ITAA is at