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An Executive Recruiter’s Plea For CIOs To “Be The Business”

by Peter High, published on Forbes

9-27-2016

Martha Heller is a long-time writer about the information technology function and the chief information officer community. She has long been a contributor to CIO.com, and she also is the President of Heller Search Associates, an executive search company placing CIOs and other technology leaders.

In her book, Be the Business: CIOs in the New Era of IT, Heller provides perspectives on how CIOs must operate in an era where technology is pervasive across the enterprise. She advises them to be bold, to seize the opportunity to lead the digital agenda, for example. As the title suggests, she admonishes those technology leaders who see a separation between IT and the business.

Heller provides examples of changing operating models, new talent development approaches, and the engagement of external partners. She also provides a list of the top ten skills and behaviors that CIOs need to pursue to be successful in this new era.

Peter High: Martha, how did the topic of this book project occur to you?

Martha Heller: I had published a number of CIO interviews for my blog on CIO.com, about how the role of IT had changed over the last five years; it was clear that IT now permeates nearly everything a company does. Regardless of industry, IT has moved much closer to (if not directly in) the revenue stream of the company. I also saw a continuing divide between IT and its business partners, where IT was accountable for IT innovation, investment decisions, development, delivery, adoption and support.
A question occurred to me: When technology is the business, shouldn’t accountability for these activities be shared across the company? So, I started asking CIOs primarily of large companies, “How are you changing your IT operating model to support the changing role of IT?” From these discussions, I learned that many CIOs are dramatically re-conceptualizing the role of IT, and I saw enough patterns in what they were doing, that I decided to write a book.

High: Each of the chapters centers around an insight and then a vignette or two from leading CIOs to personify the idea. Did the insights develop organically as you had your regular conversations with CIOs, or did you write down the insights in a structured way and then seek the flesh to fill out that skeleton, so to speak?

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