The rise of new digital competitors and business models has ushered in tremendous change for the CIO role. Once viewed as obstructionists, research shows they are increasingly taking on more strategic roles within their organisation as digital transformations progress.

Now new research shows that almost nine out of 10 CIOs are harbouring ambitions to set the company strategy, not just enable it.

According to a survey of 160 Australian CIOs and CTOs, 87 per cent of Australian CIOs are motivated to become CEO/Managing Director of their company.

The research, conducted by recruitment company Robert Half, found 39 per cent of the respondents believe the CIO is the main contender for the CEO role. While 25 per cent of CIOs think the CFO is next in line for the top job, followed by 9 per cent who believe the COO is the main contender.

Technology skills are currently rare among CEOs’ resumes. According to previous research conducted by Robert Half, 8 per cent of ASX 200 CEOs have a background in technology, compared to 47 per cent who have a background in finance.

“Technology-based skillsets are becoming increasingly influential in developing future business strategies. Today, strategic business decisions are more often than not driven by technology and innovation,” said David Jones, Senior Managing Director of Robert Half Asia Pacific.

“Business leaders who want to climb the corporate ladder increasingly understand the importance digitisation has in shaping the future direction of the organisation, highlighting the need for executives to embrace, understand and develop technological acumen.”

CIOs are also becoming more aligned with business goals, more than half (53 per cent) of Australia’s CIOs say they need to increase their expertise in how the departments can drive business growth/sales. And 48 per cent want to developing a better understanding of internal business functions other than IT.

In addition, 43 per cent of Australia’s tech leaders say they need to gain experience in business/commercial acumen and 33 per cent point to experience in another part of the organisation.

“Many CIOs have the capacity to position themselves as game-changers within their organisation, as the role of technology has increased dramatically in the wider business context,” Jones said.

“Successful CIOs who are aiming for the top job combine their technical know-how with business knowledge. They understand the need to build partnerships across the organisation, not just for their future career success, but also to help generate business value from key digital initiatives.”

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