IT Management Skills: What is Most Important?

Late in December, I read a thought provoking blog post, titled the Most Important Job of the CIO by Isaac Sacolic that has had me thinking about this subject for nearly a month now. Isaac affirms that the most important job/skill of a successful CIO, or other IT leaders, is negotiation. While I agree that negotiation is important .. the very premise of negotiation, in my opinion, puts IT/CIO at odds with Business. 

In my experience, the concept of partnership is a more critical skill set / job for the CIO. Partnership implies mutual goals, a shared vision, aligned priorities and a common interest in the success together - the true win/win.  This partnership unleashes innovation and streamlines IT investments and business transformation projects that are truly in the best for the business and IT’s credibility inside the organization.

If we place too much focus on winning the negotiation and jeopardize the partnership, the risk is that we spend less time innovating and creating business value. Within Intel IT organization, our CIO, Diane Bryant, has fostered a culture of partnership that is driving some very cool results for the business. When I first joined IT, I dismissed the message of “partnerships”, however, I’ve been learning about the importance of partnerships first-hand.

To reinforce my point I’d like to share a recent QnA I heard Diane Bryant address with her peers around the role of the CIO:

Q: Where do you see the role of the CIO going?  What should every one of us IT leaders be focusing on to prepare for the future?

A (Diane): I just received the ‘09 survey results from Intel’s business leaders grading my organization’s effectiveness in meeting their needs.  There were two themes common across all groups, spanning manufacturing, sales and marketing, finance, human resources, and the P&L organizations.  They all stated their dependency on IT is growing.  And they stated they want a greater strategic partnership with IT.  This reflects opportunity and challenge for IT’s future.  The challenge is we must run an operation that is always available. The business depends on us.  The opportunity is to further cement IT’s role as a “value center”.  IT is no longer a “cost center”.  There isn’t an element of the business that doesn’t benefit from the integration and automation through information technology.  As I tell my organization:  We are successful when IT is a clear competitive advantage for Intel.  We achieve that objective through improving employee productivity, improving business efficiency (bottom line value), supporting business growth (top line value), and in delivering IT efficiencies and continuity.   And as a CIO, my job is to build the strategic relationships with the Intel executive staff to ensure that IT is top of mind when they are developing their business strategies.

For more from Intel IT, visit our web site at www.intel.com/IT

Chris (twitter)