CIO to CEO

Changing perceptions of IT execs is easing the leap from CIO to CEO

. . . And once you move up

Hit the ground running. When he first arrived at NES, Studdert set out to map its processes to understand how IT could help through automation. "The CEO has to have an understanding of what technology can do for the company and use that understanding to push the limits on the business side," he says. "But if you don't understand the business process, the technology will fail or be underutilized."

Make the hard choices. Salzmann says the most difficult part of his transition to CEO was replacing seven of 10 company officers. He believed he'd inherited an officer team that had made the mistake of no longer doing any hands-on work. "They'd become just overseers. I was very hands-on as CIO," Salzmann says. It was a painful process, but he felt he had to put his own team in place. "A company needs a leader," Salzmann says. "Either do that or get out of the way."

Replicate your successes. Donahue says the concept of process management is more advanced in IT than it is in other disciplines. As CIO, he led a highly successful process realignment that started in application development and reached into IT infrastructure. "When I became CEO, we began extending that effort outside technology to other areas," he says. "We are reusing those detailed metrics to measure processes in non-IT fields."

Promote other CIOs. When Lofgren says that CIOs should be promoted into other areas of the business, he walks the talk. He promoted his CIO, Steve Matheys, to executive vice president of sales and marketing. "He didn't have any sales experience," Lofgren says, "but he is good at leadership and proc­esses, and that was something we needed inside our sales force. It's worked out great."

Think and act the part. CIOs view strategy with a tech-focused lens, Donahue says. "As you move up to CEO, you have to take that lens back and think about strategy from a much broader perspective and not always have an IT bent," he says. Another challenge is to delegate more. "As CIO, you have to do a deep dive in the details of projects," he notes. "But as CEO, you have to learn to depend on other people to make sure the projects are going well." Also, as the voice of the company, Donahue says, he has had to become much more externally focused, dealing with regulators, customers and partners. "You have to stay in touch with constituents inside the firm," he says, "but you spend more time keeping an eye on the outside landscape [for whatever] is coming to bite you."

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