3 Pieces of Leadership Advice from Top CIOs

Community Blog
Written by Liz Ramey

MARCH 7, 2023

Over the course of the past several years, the CIO role has grown beyond managing IT for an organization. CIOs are leaders of digital business, drivers of growth, managers of organizational change, recruiters of talent and more. In short, they are business leaders and technology leaders. 

They are also no strangers to uncertainty and the need to remain agile with their strategies. This year, that uncertainty includes economic pressures, and CIOs are tasked with driving digital business, while carefully stewarding budgets. According to Gartner’s 2023 CIO Agenda, “Four out of five CEOs are increasing digital technology investments to counter current economic pressures.” This means that CIOs have to deliver on investments – and articulate the business value of their priorities – more than ever. 

We asked dozens of CIOs across Evanta communities for advice on the evolving role of the CIO. Here are three themes that emerged when asked what they would tell someone just starting out as a CIO.

  1. Understand the business and the customer.

CIOs cannot effectively lead without a keen understanding of the business, and they are uniquely positioned to master internal processes and operations. Several CIOs also recommended focusing on customers — both internal and external.

It's important to understand the pulse of the business, value drivers, culture and alignment with your peers. Don't rush into making decisions. Listen to others and get as much data into decision making. Once this is established, then you can accelerate your strategy with business engagement as top priorities. Over communicate initially to establish relationships with others.”

Ishpreet Singh, CIO, Qualys
Governing Body Member of the San Francisco CIO Community

Technology is not what really matters, it is what you do with it.  Focus on your customer and with whom you are working to make it live.”

Nicolas Drapier, Chief Digital & Technology Officer Europe & Middle East, Compass Group
Co-Chair of the France CIO Community

LEARN THE BUSINESS. If you don't have first-hand, roll-up-your-sleeves experiences, you will fail the staff in your care.”

Jamie Holcombe, Chief Information Officer, United States Patent & Trademark Office
Co-Chair of the Washington, DC CIO Community

  1. Network and foster strong relationships.

CIOs report that it’s essential to build relationships across the C-suite and with the board to help create advocates internally. In addition, they recommend networking outside of your company and industry to learn more about what peers are doing to solve similar challenges.

Take time to build relationships with the board, leaders and teams across the organisation. Foster strong partnerships so that you can count on them.”

Christophe Alie, CIO, Kiabi
Governing Body Member of the France CIO Community

Network internally and externally to find mentors and supporters. Understand political decision making. Operational excellence and cyber security are non-negotiables.”

Raymond Lowe, SVP & CIO, AltaMed Health Services
Governing Body Member of the Southern California CIO Community

Network with others who have been in the role before you, and learn from their successes as well as failures.”

Gina Guillaume-Joseph, PhD, Chief Technology Officer - Government, Workday
Governing Body Member of the Washington, DC CIO Community

3 things: 1. Invest time in your team and support their growth. Their success is your success. 2. Network widely, inside or outside your industry. This is not something that comes naturally to everyone, but the best learning is from the network. 3. Enjoy what you do, because it's when you’re at your best.”

Edel McGrath, Group Head of Technology, Knight Frank
Governing Body Member of the UK & Ireland CIO Community

  1. Be open to learning and risk taking.

Great leaders are often continuous learners, and CIOs are no different – especially with their interest in technology. CIOs suggest listening and being open to learning, and it might shed light on new opportunities.

Believe in yourself. Be humble, be curious, ask questions and always be open to learning, but don't deviate from your core values and be confident about the unique value you bring.”

Sue Liderth, CIO EMEA, Coca-Cola European Partners
Governing Body Member of the UK & Ireland CIO Community

Observe through continuously listening to as many people as you can – within your organization and industry, as well as partners and clients. As Sherlock Holmes said - ‘A good detective knows that every task, every interaction, no matter how seemingly banal, has the potential to contain multitudes.’”

Ashroff Khan, PMP, VP, Information Technology, NORR
Governing Body Member of the Toronto CIO Community

Be open to opportunities, even if you don't believe that you have the capabilities or knowledge. Have the courage to assume change and self development, and take some risks to accept those opportunities.”

Tony Battle, Group CIO, Jaguar Land Rover
Co-Chair of the UK & Ireland CIO Community

Learn from Your CIO Peers

Members of Evanta's CIO Communities get together regularly to discuss how to overcome shared challenges and help each other drive growth and innovation at their organizations. Apply to join your local CIO Community, and take a look at the calendar to see when your CIO community is gathering next.

Liz Ramey headshot

Liz Ramey

Director, Content at Evanta, a Gartner Company