The role of chief information officer is an interesting one, since it often is a designation that can mean different things to different organizations. After the recent technology and financial explosion at the American Bar Association, I was honored to be asked to be the interim chief information officer, replacing a director of information systems, until a CIO could be hired.
Talk about your enlightening opportunities. As I attempted to get up to speed on managing 60 to 70 staff who were still knee deep in implementation issues on some significant projects – ERP, reporting, data warehouse, etc. – I also had to figure out what exactly the scope of a CIO was and how that translated to our particular environment.
For those who have not stopped by CIO.com, I’d recommend it. Not that there are any answers there, but it’s a wealth of information about leading technology organizations and how this position might interrelate with chief financial officers (CFOs), chief executive officers (CEOs), chief operating officers (COOs), and chief technology officers (CTOs) and what the difference or overlap might be among these C officers.
Fortunately, there are CIO positions in varying sized organizations, which means that there is also some path to be picked out among the sharp rocks, for those who have an eye on a career in technology management. With the conventional wisdom that CIOs are staying in place about 36 months, there would seem to be no end of opportunity for those interested in taking it – and who have communication and interpersonal skills, management experience, and technology acumen!
As for me, I’m back to my “day job” as director of the ABA’s legal technology resource center, although I have also picked up the ABA’s Web development group for the time being while the CIO gets the organization whipped into shape. It’s an exciting time watching someone with deep experience make the same (and many different) choices and decisions that I’d expected to have to make. If you have the opportunity to take on a leadership role that’s a stretch for your skills and experience, take it on if you can. It’s an exceptional chance to see what the next step might be like – and whether you like it – and can be a good way to sort out where you are going.