Chief of Staff: the evolving CIO Office

It is well documented that the role of the CIO is changing and transitioning from delivery executive to business executive; driving revenue, exploiting data, delivering digitised services, improving customer and colleague experience and enhancing business performance.

Primarily, CIO’s must align to business strategy and transform business processes, with IT operational excellence a given. The only way CIOs can realise this broader set of business objectives and create the necessary time and capacity, is to delegate tasks and responsibilities.

Cue……the Chief of Staff.

Chiefs of staff report directly to the CIO, and in addition to long careers in IT and Change, most have spent time working elsewhere in the business, most frequently in finance, strategy, or operations. A chief of staff is a critical hire, serving as a strategic advisor and counsel to leaders, assuming day-to-day responsibility for programmes and crucial tasks and creating and maintaining cross-departmental relationships to enable leadership success.

The Chief of Staff role exists to ‘be there’ for the leader they work with and ‘make things happen’. They are a trusted adviser who can be called upon at any moment to provide support, insights, and represent the CIO at Board, Exec and committee meetings. Similarly to the role of the CIO, the Chiefs of Staff objectives are evolving to focus more on efficiencies, innovation and growth. All of this indicates the role is becoming more business-focused, and more critical to the future development of IT.

Here, we look at 4 key considerations where hiring a Chief of Staff.

  1. Consider both internal and external candidates

Chiefs of Staff get a lot done through influence, personal credibility and, at times, their knowledge of the organisation. Although it’s easier for someone who has already built a good track record at the company, the right Chief of Staff should have the skills and experience to integrate themselves into an organisation quickly and assess issues that serve as barriers to a team or organisation operating at maximum effectiveness.

  1. Decide what you need the Chief of Staff to focus on and where they can add most value

CIOs should be clear whether they want a Chief of Staff to set direction or orchestrate delivery. The current trend is toward strategy-setting but the right answer will depend on a company’s priorities and how the CIO spends his or her time.

  1. Expand and evolve the Chief of Staff’s responsibilities over time

Whilst the Chief of Staff will be set key priorities and responsibilities, the most resourceful will also assess and recognise the CIO’s highest priorities. By taking on day-to-day tasks, an effective Chief of Staff should build trust with the CIO, enabling them to focus on larger strategic organisational initiatives. This, in turn, allows for their own development.

  1. Set the right tone with the leadership team

CIOs need to resist the temptation to have functional leaders reporting into the Chief of Staff – the role does not represent another layer of management. Rather, a Chief of Staff must be well connected with those reporting into a leader and others across the organisation to influence outcomes.

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