What it takes to be a CIO in Asia

They have had to rise to the challenge of quickly transitioning the workforce.

The role of Chief Information Officer (CIOs) is currently faces an extremely fast-changing environment amid the speed of technology advancements. Current global events have pushed CIOs to establish themselves as a key part of the executive suite, to advise on business strategy.

In Hays’ ‘DNA of a CIO Asia’ report, the recruitment firm found that most CIOs had IT related university degrees, with 62 per cent possessing a degree in information technology, computer science or systems.

Although a solid technical foundation is a key building block to becoming CIO, keeping on top of rapidly changing technology advancements was seen to be a key career development step that 49 per cent of CIOs take.

But being CIO is not only about the technical knowledge, it’s also about being commercially involved in the business and having a multitude of business skills. The CIOs Hays surveyed, agreed that strategic planning is the most important skill a CIO must possess. This was followed by people management and stakeholder engagement.

According to the report, “IT leaders are not just classed as technical support, but rather people who can enhance the strategic direction of entire organisations by putting technology at the heart.

Successful CIOs spend time working across the wider organisation to act as an effective interface between IT and the business to deliver critical outcomes.”

Developing experiences and skills

Some of the ways CIOs have developed these skills include further education, with 23 per cent having obtained an MBA.

The CIOs interviewed also spoke of international experience as a key contributor. In fact, 44 per cent of the CIOs interviewed had gained international experience and 70 per cent of those found this to be of considerable benefit to their career.

“CIOs have a genuine desire to enhance organisations and are in a unique position to act as a link between business strategy and IT strategy”, adds the report.

While there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to becoming a CIO, there are certainly common traits that aspiring CIOs can strive towards.

Tips for aspiring CIOs, according to ‘Hays DNA of a CIO Asia’ report:

Build a solid technical foundation:

  • 62 per cent have a degree in Information Technology, Computer Science or Systems
  • 45 per cent have a master’s degree and 23 per cent an MBA
  • 41 per cent of CIOs hold IT certifications or have undertaken additional IT qualifications
  • 78 per cent have always work in IT
  • Keep on top of IT related developments:
  • 19 per cent state one of their greatest professional challenges in the upcoming year is to keep up to date with new technology
  • 49 per cent say that keeping up to date with the latest industry changes is one of the career developmental steps they’ve taken in the last two years
  • 34 per cent cite keeping up to date on tech advances as one of their top three tips for the next generation of CIOs
  • Develop a multitude of business skills:
  • 53 per cent of CIOs identify strategic planning as the most important skill to possess
  • 47 per cent think their collaborative mindset has helped them build their careers
  • 32 per cent advise aspiring CIOs to get involved with the business rather than just the technology
  • Build a solid network
  • 35 per cent of surveyed CIOs agree that it is important for the IT department to work with all other departments in the organisation
  • 36 per cent state that they attended networking events to aid their development

Paid their worth

Daen Huang, team manager for technology at Hays Singapore told CIO Tech Asia the role of a CIO has always been critical and will continue to be in this digital age.

“As companies become more digitalised, the volume of data they hold is growing at an unprecedented rate,” he said. This means the requirement for even stronger data governance, risk management, and compliance will continue to be essential, for which the CIO will play an increasingly important role.

According to Huang, salary packages for CIOs can differ broadly depending on the years of experience they hold or even the size of the companies they come from.

“However, it is evident that CIOs play a key and fundamental role in this present age of data, which means that businesses will pay their worth for the right person,” he said.

David Jones, senior managing director at Robert Half Asia Pacific given their value to organisations, the most skilled CIOs can demand the highest salaries in technology.

“Companies understand the need to pay competitive salaries to talented CIOs as their responsibility for successfully implementing digital strategies will be integral to the future success of companies – especially as they navigate the current environment,” he said. “Like other roles however, salaries are expected to remain stable for the foreseeable future.”

Expectations for the future

When asked about the greatest business challenges for CIOs they addressed a number of hurdles, such as the challenge to align strategic requirements with operational budget and workforce (38 per cent), recruitment, retention and attraction (31 per cent) and skills and knowledge gap of the team (31 per cent).

Huang believes with the growth of data volume and data regulations; CIOs will likely have increased responsibilities in two areas:

1) Enhancing their organisational data governance framework and structures

2) Diving into cloud storage infrastructure solutions for their organisation.

According to Jones across the APAC region, there are several trends impacting the role of CIO which are largely driven by the pandemic. While digital transformation has been ongoing in most organisations for a while, CIOs must now make sure the workforce is adequately equipped and supported to work remotely – potentially for the long-term.

“CIOs are also adapting operational processes as many customer facing service shifts to digital, while the increasing prevalence of digital products, services, and processes means cyber-security measures will also be a top priority for CIOs,” he said.

Besides technical acumen, CIOs in their capacity as business leaders will also need to demonstrate empathy and provide support for their teams as workers experience incredibly challenging times.

“There has been a strong focus on digital transformation across many industries for some time, so CIOs already had a crucial role in helping companies become more competitive by leveraging new technologies,” said Jones. “But it’s fair to say that the pandemic has accelerated the development and roll out of new digital initiatives.”

In recent months, CIOs have had to rise to the challenge of quickly transitioning the workforce to remote work practices, while shifting products and services online to meet changing market demands and overcome social distancing restrictions, Jones adds.

While digital transformation remains a top priority for companies as they seek to prepare for the future world of work.

“At the same time, there is an ongoing requirement for CIOs to evaluate and adjust business operations to remote work and the rise of the digital customer,” said Jones. “Consequently, CIOs will be vital to helping companies set realistic long-term goals as well as navigating the uncertainty of the months ahead and road to recovery.”

All of this is layered into the fact that 95 per cent of the Hays’ surveyed CIOs are male; proving more needs to be done to encourage women into IT in addition to other means of addressing skills and talent shortages.










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