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From CIO to CEO: Are you ready for the leap?

One of the most in-demand positions in many organizations is that of the CIO. There are plenty of reasons. At a time when digital transformation has become a must for many companies, the value of the CIO and its financial pay has exploded in recent years. In fact, the value of the CIO has grown so much in the last decade that not a few companies end up considering this profile as their next CEO.

Why? Because although the CIO undoubtedly has a clearly technological profile, it also presupposes a vision that goes further, since it is able to identify how these technologies are aligned with the business strategy of your company and even more, how they help to fulfill with certain strategic objectives.

Now, that this is the case does not imply that the CIO is an ideal profile to become CEO in all cases or for all types of companies. In this sense, if you stop taking care of aspects such as cloud workloads and hyperconvergence, to start running a company, are among your wishes for next year, it is convenient to be clear about some aspects, such as the type of companies that they are naturally inclined to this change.

Companies where technology comes first

Companies that sell technology products or in which technology is a very important part of their core business they can be in favor of their CIO, with the right strategic vision, becoming their CEO.

These types of companies operate in areas such as software development, IT consulting, online commerce, social media, development of technological components … etc. In almost all of these cases, company management understands what role the technology plays and what value it has.

For this reason, it is not surprising that it is precisely here that the transition from CIO to CEO is most often considered as a good strategy, since this profile probably represents that of the person who surely knows the problems and needs of their clients best. .

Tech spinoffs

In some sectors, such as banking or finance, there is a long “tradition” that part of its IT department (or the entire department) ends up separating from its parent company to become a subsidiary company, while maintaining certain independence in order to diversify its client portfolio.

In these cases, there is a high probability that the CIO will end up becoming the CEO of the new company, who will now have the opportunity to direct IT for both his company and others. In this case, the CIO “finds” a plausible route to the CEO position that would not otherwise exist.

CIOs that “transform”

In addition to their technical profile, a CIO is expected to have an overview of the business, understand what the strategic needs of the company are, and understand the “hows” and “why” s.

This of course does not always happen. Many CIOs end up being much more comfortable in their technical field and “flee” from the more business aspects. On other occasions, however, the CIO ends up “learning the business” and why not, developing a strategic vision and a “nose” comparable to that of any other CEO.

In these cases, it is the CIO himself who progressively moves away and delegates the more technical issues of the company and usually begins to participate naturally in other areas such as finance or operations.

They start their own company

Of course, the most expeditious and direct way for a CIO to become CEO is to start their own company. Due to their previous experience, this type of company usually operates in the field of IT consulting, the specialized channel of another technology company or even in the development of a startup.

How NOT to become a CEO

If you are currently the CIO of a company, you may (or may not) have a chance to become CEO in the future. If this is your wish, there are certain elements that can give you some clue about the real possibilities you have of getting to occupy that position.

First, examine where you are within the company. If your direct reporting line is not the CEO and in fact, you report to an “intermediate” figure such as the CFO or COO, then your chances in that specific company are not too great. Why? Because the signal they are sending you is “obvious”: technology is not among the strategic areas of the company.

Even if it were, your position of “strength” is less so, if the core business of the company have a low technological component and it is not found in some of the sectors that we have mentioned before. In organizations where technology is not the product, it is difficult for the CIO to become a future CEO. In fact, in these organizations, it is often the VP of Marketing / Sales or the COO who gets the go-ahead to be CEO, if the organization is not looking for an external candidate.

Finally, and as we have pointed out before, your options drastically decrease if you do not understand or have a strategic vision for the company. Mastering all its technical aspects and being an ace in the migration of the organization’s systems to a hybrid cloud environment, does not necessarily make you the best option to direct the future of the organization.

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