In a few recent posts, we talked about some key distinctions between the roles of technology leaders in companies. We discussed what it means to be a CIO, Director of IT, CTO, and fractional CIO. In this article, we’ll provide a quick recap of how each of these positions is unique. After, let’s take a more in-depth look into technology leadership in general, and what it takes to be a successful leader in for a company’s IT.
Types of Technology Leadership for Businesses
What Does it Mean to be a CIO?
A CIO – or Chief Information Officer – is the head of a company’s IT department, and offers guidance to the Director of IT. CIO’s will often manage funds, create and enforce protocol, create department budgets and more. Another important role of the CIO can be to help identify important strategic technology partners for their company.
A Director of IT?
The Director of Information Technology typically operates under the CIO. They will often manage small teams in the IT department, and as such their main duties include overseeing day-to-day department operations. The Director of IT generally handles short-term, smaller picture IT issues. Meanwhile the CIO should always be looking into the future at the bigger picture.
CIOs are focused internally – managing funds, protocol, strategic planning, etc. But CTOs (Chief Technology Officers) are focused externally. CTOs are primarily concerned with how their company’s use of technology affects their customers.
Even if the company is not technology-based, it is the CTO’s job to ensure that their use of technology is working to offer customers the best product possible. An organization’s CTO will often work very closely with research teams and engineers. They do this to ensure that the technology they’re using is efficient and innovative.
And finally, a Fractional CIO?
A Fractional CIO performs all of the same responsibilities as a full-time CIO (managing their company’s IT department) but the position works differently. Fractional CIOs are typically either part-time employees or hired on a contract basis.
Companies will often hire a fractional CIO if they:
- aren’t ready for a full-time CIO
- can’t afford a full-time CIO
- are working to meet an IT deadline
So What Are the Qualities of Strong Technology Leadership?
Leaders in the technology field often come from a wide range of backgrounds. Because of the newness and ever-changing innovation in today’s technology marketplace, there isn’t really a strictly defined skillset yet for positions of technology leadership.
This can be both incredibly freeing and incredibly daunting for companies looking to expand their technology leadership. Luckily, there are still several general skillsets to search for if you’re considering hiring a CIO, Director of IT, CTO, or Fractional CIO.
Technology leaders should inspire.
A key trait of every good leader in technology is his or her ability to inspire others with their visionary ideas. And this extends to employees, co-workers, customers, and even competitors.
Effective leaders in the information technology field always have aspirational ideas. Hence, this is a trait you want to keep an eye on during the hiring process. And it’s because these aspirational ideas have enabled the technology field to make the leaps and bounds that it has in recent years.
So, if you can hire a visionary and inspirational technology leader for your business, you will be placing your company on the forefront of change and innovation.
They should take risks- responsibly
A trait that often goes along with aspirational ideas is the willingness to take risks. This is another trait to be on the lookout for when filling – or creating – technology leadership roles.
However, this one comes with a caveat. It is also wise to hire someone with enough business knowledge and experience to understand how your company functions.
The best technology leaders offer a balanced skillset:
- an understanding of the business side of things (everything from finance to marketing to HR)
- and a strong vision and understanding of the technological future of your company.
Hiring someone with only a business background may result in your company not receiving the technology ideas and leadership that it needs in order to be a technological leader. Conversely, hiring someone with only IT experience may result in technological leadership that does not understand or account for other aspects of your business. Both of these missteps can result in conflicts of interest, misunderstandings and miscommunication.
They should exemplify accountability and confidence
In addition, it is important that whoever you hire has enough confidence to take ownership of their plans and vision. And as such, you want whoever you hire to have the utmost confidence in their decisions.
This is particularly important in the IT field, since its newness means that there are not necessarily as many established protocols and formulas for success as other sectors of business. The IT strategic plan of your company may look unfamiliar to some employees. Thus it is critical that your technology leader is an extremely strong advocate for the technological plans they make for your company.
And they should always keep the customer in mind
Lastly, your technology leadership should have the best interests of your customers in mind. It’s important that your hire balances efficiency with quality when it comes to customer deliverables.
At the same time, your technology leadership should inspire and empower their employees to uphold the same values when it comes to customer service.
Having knowledgable and experienced leadership is increasingly important in this technology-centric marketplace. We understand that it can be challenging to know where and how to begin when it comes to building your business’ IT department. We’re here to help.
We Help Lead Your Company into the Future
Contact us here: our team of professionals have decades of experience working in technology executive roles and are well-equipped to coach and mentor leaders across multiple industries. We offer fractional CIO resources and our Surge CIO™ or Gap CIO™ solutions as well.