5 skills CIOs need to survive

Sanjeev Agrawal, Executive Vice President (IT), Apollo Munich Health Insurance Company Ltd, on skills CIOs need to develop to stay relevant. By Pooja Paryani

With over 30 years experience, Sanjeev Agrawal is a senior delivery professional who possesses expertise in infrastructure and application management services. For his prowess in the field, he was awarded the Insurance Icon at CIO Power List 2016.

“CIOs before were more focused on technology,” says Sanjeev. “But with time CIOs have had to diversify their focus into business, which goes beyond the domain of pure technology. Now it has become a mix of business and technology enablement for the success of the organisation. Traditionally, the basic responsibility of a CIO was to keep the lights. Now, the CIO has to manage several other things, which includes managing the cost of the project with appropriate utilisation and maintenance of available resources. The CIO is instrumental in looking after the transformation budget. Besides that, he is also a major contributor in bringing the innovation and vision to the business for long term ROI in technology. Other aspects such as cyber security, data safety, cognitive computing, IoT, mobility, analytics and managing social media also fall under the umbrella of a CIO.”

“A CIO’s job is getting tougher day by day and we’ve to work harder to meet the requirements. We have to keep ourselves updated with new technological innovations, finding out quick ways of adaption and making it more productive. Everything has to be seen from a long-term point of view. A CIO is expected to understand the business perspective, plan accordingly and evaluate the market potential. We have to keep a balance between business, IT and finance while also exploring the best practices for a creative customer experience in increasing revenue.”

With the change in responsibilities, CIOs also need to develop new skill sets. Here Sanjeev, discusses key skills that CIOs need to have to be successful.

1. Learn to be a generalist
“Specialisation in one technology is now of no more use. A CIO has to know each and everything in business not just the technology. He should be a general manager to understand the business and technology perspective so as to have a vision and calculate the business risks. He also has to be a financial juggler because he will be involved in purchase and technology investment for the company’s growth. So a CIO has to be dynamic with managerial skills, financial management skills, and technology upgradation skills.”

2. Ability to understand the business
“CIOs need to look for business growth and development while implementing technology. They need to be aware of what is happening in the business as well the industry. CIOs have to become advisors to the business rather than just working in technology enablement. Involvement in business strategy is important because execution is in the hands of the CIO, and therefore the results.”

3. Strive to understand new technology and its uses
“For improved results, CIOs need to understand technology before they can implement it in the business. So attend seminars, read magazines/articles, meet people from all over the world to see their technologies and read reports. Cognitive computing and digitisation are the need of the hour. In BFSI these are used tremendously to track frauds, segment customers and understand their needs. Technology helps us to provide customers with the best suitable product and proposition. Adopting a technology is good, but we need to think about its future and sustenance as well.”

4. Knowledge of finance
“Cost optimisation, contract management with suppliers and effective service integration, are also a few important responsibilities of CIOs. So you need to develop these skills. Evaluating supplies with their cost and knowing the trick to construct and contract deals are also very important for CIOs.”

5. Ability to keep learning
“CIOs have to be aware of new technologies and the best ways to implement them in business. Also, they must ensure the technology in the business is upgraded and efficient while meeting all the requirements. New technology should be more in sync with cognitive computing, as it is the biggest demand in the market in terms of technology. There has to be a constant effort to learn and evolve.” 

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