This is the subject of some research that I am currently undertaking also for an up coming article.
Chris asked questions of the online community and his article is based on the responses to these questions. It is timely that Chris has raised this issue at this time, particularly in a recession, when it is so important to have highly functioning organisations.
Actually, this question has been asked many times before, over many years, and the answer keeps coming back that “Yes, they need both a business and IT background to succeed”. Just as a CFO needs a financial and business background.
My comment on his article on the CIO site was:
Yes, absolutely CIOs need both IT and business backgrounds. From an educational background also a Masters in information systems or a combination of business and information technology study at a post graduate level does not go a miss either.
Boards and CEO’s need education in order for them to spot a CIO when they see them. So many organisations are being poorly served by people in CIO roles who may be good technical managers but don’t understand or relate to the business.
One of the things that I am particularly interested in is why we keep having to ask this question.
I suspect one reason may be that CEO’s, 2nd tier managers and even Boards of Directors do not understand what a Chief Information Officer is and what they do (ie how the function should enable the business). As far as they are concerned they are “IT” – what ever that means. Maybe they also hope the answer will change so they can justify their own organisational structure or poor choice of person in the position!
This then shows a fundamental lack of management understanding and education. It maybe also point to a lack of clearly being able to define the role by some IT staff also. This lack of knowledge unfortunately doesn’t help the cause.
Look soon for my article on – what is a true CIO, what background and qualifications do they need, and who they should report to (and no that is not the CFO). I’ll also explain how in my opinion the CIO is different from a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) or IT Manager.