A well-managed CIO career

He stands near the window, hand poised over his smartphone, gazing out and presumably thinking up a grand vision for the digital transformation of his company. His suit is immaculately well-tailored. He’s in a boardroom — which is obviously his natural habitat.

Let it not be said that VMware fails to capture the aspirational image of CIOs everywhere.

In “A Well-Managed CIO Career,” the company best known for making virtualization the data centre equivalent of a household name lays out the potential areas where IT executives may choose to spend their time, with labels that indicate how they may be perceived by their organizations. You probably don’t even have to move through all seven slides to guess how this particular journey unfolds.

I give VMware this: even for those CIOs it deems have a long way to go (i.e., “Data Center Focus”), the nudging to start spending more time on higher-value things is never too brutal. There’s a respectful recognition here that even those who aren’t boardroom insiders are working their way to demonstrating how important great IT management is.

As for the suggested end state, I’m not so sure that all CIOs naturally see themselves one day running a company, though it’s possible that if a company in retail or finance starts seeing themselves as a technology company — perhaps by moving to a software-defined data centre? — the CIO might be considered a candidate for the top job.

Do CIOs need vendors to keep chanting this particular sort of refrain? It must be some kind of ego boost to be told you should aim for a CEO title. The reality, however, is that many IT leaders probably move less linearly or progressively from one stage to the next but forward and back, depending on the circumstances and the support from senior management. In that sense, the real secret to a well-managed CIO career is really no secret at all.



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