'CIOs should not make themselves irreplaceable'

by p b    Jun 30, 2011

June 30, 2011,
By Ashwani Mishra

Suresh A Shanmugam[Q] How important is it for CIOs to ensure that the leadership pipeline is properly developed as the impact of technology grows, and as IT effectiveness becomes a competitive weapon?

[A] Succession planning has been greatly debated; especially in the realm of IT leaders. Though it is a fundamental activity within every corporate function, there have not been many instances where a CIO or an IT head has made efforts to structurally prepare the succession plan.

For IT, it is especially important as technology’s role as a business enabler continues to grow. The IT department needs to be divided into multiple silos like project management, IT operations, business process, infrastructure, change management, application support etc, each having a functional head who reports to the CIO.

[Q] What are the pitfalls of not having a succession planning in place?

[A] The major impact would be on business continuity as IT today has become a critical part for most of the businesses. The other concern is to find someone outside the organisation with the same domain expertise.

[Q] What have been your initiatives within the company to ensure that the IT team is nurtured and made ready for the next level?

[A] Succession motive becomes a selfish motive for a good executive or CIO because if they intend to play a larger role in the organisation dynamics at the board level etc., they need to be fully assured that the people working under them are equipped and can stand in for them when the need arises.

I have made my zonal IT heads to carry out various IT initiatives. For example, the southern zone has been asked to make a document management system; the northern region will handle information security. The lead in the north eastern part of the country has been asked to collect the data and store it in a centralized environment. However, for strategic decision making, the team seeks my judgment.

Earlier all these activities were conducted from our head office in Mumbai. These tasks will help each one to take responsibilities and handle multiple projects with confidence. I want to create 100 CIOs within the company and not make my self irreplaceable. Such initiatives also give a confidence to the management

[Q] What qualities and capabilities should one look at for preparing the leaders of tomorrow?

[A] Among many things, I personally feel there are two very important things we should look for in the future leaders. One is personal effectiveness of the person you wish to groom and second, is the ability to take up transformational roles outside typical comfort zones.