January 21, 2016
January 21, 2016
Contributor: Jo Bennett
As businesses adapt to the digital economy, IT leadership skills provide a strong foundation for aspiring COOs.
What’s the next step on the career path for CIOs? Many CIOs are content to stay in IT leadership. Others, looking to build on their influence and advance their careers, aspire to the office of the Chief Operating Officer (COO). “While the proportion of companies with a COO role is relatively low and declining,” said Colleen M. Young, managing vice president at Gartner, “for the ambitious, credible CIO, the attainability of the position (where it exists) is improving.”
Two words — digital business — capture the opportunity for enterprises that either hire or promote an individual with CIO experience to lead the COO function. To compete in today’s economy, businesses of all sizes are scrambling to digitize their legacy business models and leverage data to improve operations and customer experiences.
Ambitious, forward-thinking COOs have experience leading such initiatives, both operationally and strategically. In the U.S., noted Ms. Young, one study showed that 84% of COOs were promoted internally.
In the majority of cases, CIOs were advanced to the COO role, and most retained IT responsibilities. An example of an organization that has a joint COO/CIO role is the London Stock Exchange, where the role was created as part of an initiative to modernize the Exchange’s core trading platform.
To be considered a viable candidate for success in the COO role, CIOs need to demonstrate some specific skills and capabilities:
Think of the journey toward becoming a COO as a three-stage continuum:
Your first step in assessing whether to take proactive steps toward becoming a COO, according to Ms. Young, is to determine if the role is practical at your current company. For example, in the services, energy and retail industries, COOs are more common than in the healthcare, financial services and industrial sectors.
Next, you will next need to demonstrate your operational effectiveness beyond the IT organization. You might consider adding logistics, procurement and other corporate functions to your responsibilities.
Finally, identify ways to make the CEO personally successful. Being creative and proactive will demonstrate that you possess some of the necessary DNA for the job.
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Recommended resources for Gartner clients*:
Making the Transition from CIO to COO
*Note that some documents may not be available to all Gartner clients.