The Evolving CIO

Dec 3, 2002

Esther Shein

It's no surprise that CIOs, like any other executives, must continually keep their skills refreshed and the learning curve up if they are to remain effective. What's becoming more of a phenomenon is that the CIO's role is evolving, and how they are learning to meet the challenge.

"More and more we're now seeing where the individual responsible for the CIO role is playing a big role in boardrooms and on management teams and that responsibility requires skill sets to be in place," says Jim Luisi, executive director of the Society for Information Management (SIM), a Chicago-based not-for-profit organization of information technology executives, including CIOs, CTOs and emerging IT leaders.

Many already have the necessary technical skills, Luisi says, but they need to focus more on their leadership skills and on strategic planning at the executive level.

That's where SIM plays an integral role. Established in 1968, SIM provides its diverse membership with a sound infrastructure to pool their insights through programs such as the SIM Regional Leadership Forum, primarily intended for "fast-track CIOs" to equip them better to take on that role. More directly at the CIO level is SIM's Advanced Practices Council, which emphasizes continual learning for CIOs through the sharing of peer-based knowledge.

IT executives turn to SIM for a multitude of reasons depending on where they are in their careers, says Ed Trainor, president-elect of SIM. Early on in their careers they find the organization important for the networking and knowledge-gathering opportunities, not to mention job advancement and the opportunity to come into contact with a number of people, says Trainor, who is also CIO and senior vice president of IS, at Paramount Pictures, in Los Angeles.

"Further into their careers, there's more of a need to give back to the profession; that's where I'm at right now," he says. "It has offered to me an opportunity to do all those things. I've been a member for more years than I want to confess to."

IT/Business Alignment a Constant

SIM, which has almost 2,700 members, conducts an annual survey of its membership every summer to solicit the most pressing workplace issues. Besides the evolving CIO leadership role, the other hot topics the most recent survey revealed were, not surprisingly: security and privacy; infrastructure management; alignment with the business (which Luisi says remains a constant every year); speed and agility; and a little further down the rung, systems complexity reduction.

Trainor says this year's responses jibe with what he's most concerned about in his role at Paramount: "Meeting the expectations of our business certainly, and delivering large projects in a very tight budget." Trainor says he divides his job into two parts: the systems development side, and what he calls the "factory side" or the infrastructure, which keeps things running.

Currently, he is working on delivering a large SAP project for Paramount's home video business. His challenge, he says, is doing the implementation with a tight budget and limited resources on the business side, where funding is also an issue.

At SIM, CIOs share such experiences and challenges and use their peers as sounding boards. They also share research they may have done in evaluating newer technologies such as electronic collaboration, and identifying some of the challenges IT faces today and some of the key success factors that they need to deal with in order to move forward, says Luisi.

"Those are not the types of things you'll get from a service provider, but more from a CIO who says 'We've done this and this, and this is why we took the approach we did,'" Luisi says.

SIM is on the Web at


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