The emergence of an ‘IT manager-plus’

There may be such a thing as the “CIO-plus,” but is there also an IT manager-plus?

I’m not talking about a date the IT manager brings to the company’s holiday party (assuming anyone is still having holiday parties this year. The CIO-plus was brought up as a concept in a book I’m reading called The Real Business of IT. Authored by Gartner Fellow Richard Hunter and MIT research scientist George Westerman, they look at the evolution of the CIO but perhaps more importantly the CIO’s long-term career path.

Here’s an important part:

The CIO role is a potent launching pad

It doesn’t matter whether a business executive became CIO or a CIO gained additional business responsibilities. It doesn’t matter whether the new role was a choice or an obligation. What matters is that IT leaders are playing increasingly important roles in the business.

CIOs have every reason to know the plans, strategies, and capabilities of every business unit, because they are charged with automating and informing those strategies. No one in the company, with the possible exception of the COO, knows more about how the company’s business processes work than the CIO. And the CIO usually owns the most capable project delivery teams in the enterprise.

In short, CIOs are typically associated with the company’s best practices for making and executing strategy and delivering services. It’s only natural that their enterprises (or others) would call on CIOs when they need capable leaders. The CIO-plus role does not happen automatically. It takes effort, not only to perform the CIO role well but also to shape the possibilities for doing more. That means making it known that you are interested in an expanded role, seeking opportunities that leverage the CIO experience, and taking on risky new challenges when offered.

Makes perfect sense to me, but I wonder if it applies only to the CIO. IT managers, for example, should have some of the same attributes from a business understanding perspective. The authors look at becoming CIO gurus, “extended” CIOs with other line of business responsibilities and even non-IT roles. The IT manager-plus could be the key staff such CIOs need to be successful in these career transitions, assuming they’re ready for such a challenge.

We’ll be running an extended excerpt of The Real Business of IT in the next issue of CIO Canada, but in the meantime I think it’s important less senior IT department staff start thinking along the same lines. What kind of projects, responsibilities or ideas do they need to develop to become an IT manager-plus? This isn’t a trivial matter. Particularly in an economy like this one, we all know what happens to an IT manager-minus.



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