Amid the big data, mobile, social and cloud computing waves, organizations are overhauling their job descriptions for CIOs and CTOs – and drawing up new descriptions for emerging leaders like chief data officers.

For a look at the key talent trends, Information Management reached out to Paul Groce, a partner at Heidrick & Struggles, the well-known provider of executive search, leadership consulting and culture shaping. Groce recently rejoined the firm, focusing on CIO and CTO leadership teams while also zeroing in on data-driven talent like CDOs, application experts and Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs). Here’s our conversation.

Information Management: Let’s start with the big picture, Paul. What are your primary responsibilities at Heidrick & Struggles?

Groce: Our global practice specializes in leadership consulting, culture shaping and executive search in the CIO and CTO areas in support of clients’ technology leadership team building needs. Our focus spans all industries but goes far beyond recruiting as we work with the world’s top organizations to help them build and develop high performing teams.

Information Management: How do you see the executive IT landscape evolving? Are you recruiting the same type of talent into the same types of positions that existed 3- to 5-years ago (or more)?

Groce: The talent landscape continues to change incrementally, but the demand for a different type of talent has increased exponentially. More simply stated, the demand far exceeds supply. The traditional CIO who served as a general manager of technology is behind us. Organizations today are increasingly dependent on technology, demanding that their IT leaders be innovators, not simple guardians. The landscape change is most prominent in industries that have only recently embraced technology. A decade ago, a relative few considered themselves and their businesses technology-dependent. The ratio has inverted as the CIO of 2015 is a critical player in all industry sectors.

Also See: Top 10 Priorities for Big Data Management

Information Management: Have the big data, mobile, social and cloud waves impacted the type of executives you’re placing/expect to place in CIO and CTO roles?

Groce: Absolutely! To my earlier point, industries and companies previously on the lower side of the technology maturity spectrum have awakened to the business leveraging opportunities big data, mobile, social media and other advances offer. And, it is the business side that demands advances in these areas. The need for advancement to bridge the technology maturity gap is the greatest driver of change we see. This often results in migration of talent from technology-mature industries over to those in need of innovation and leadership.

Information Management: What about the potential rise of Chief Data Officers? Do you see this mostly as a small niche? Or will the CDO increasingly occupy a new seat at the CXO table within more and more companies?

Groce: The simple answer is “yes.” You can call the Chief Data Officer anything you want and have the Chief Data Officer sit anyplace in the organization chart you chose, but the function is on a rocket-ride to the moon in terms of importance. The role continues to grow at a pace faster than Moore’s Law dictates for data expansion. The occurrence of formal Chief Data Officer roles has multiplied more than eight-fold over the past couple of years and that trend will continue. Even within organizations that have previously focused on data as a business multiplier, the expansion of data responsibilities to the enterprise level is driving significant changes and a continuing escalation of influence for these key leaders.

Information Management: Have business leader expectations (CEOs, CFOs, Chief Marketing Officer, Chief Sales Officer, etc.) evolved in terms of what they expect from CIOs, CTOs, and Chief Data Officers? How so?

Groce: The business leaders expect technology leaders to serve as peers, as partners and as business leaders, not as CIOs, CTOs and CDOs taking delivery orders from them. As an example, one prominent CEO recently described the CIO’s importance in her organization as “unparalleled at the C-level in the corporation” given the CIO’s job of also being the primary R&D executive. “Our competitive advantage and differentiation comes from technology alone, and my CIO is my R&D Head.” That statement defines a change in both responsibility and in attitude about the role of CIOs. And, it is a change we observe globally across all industries.

Information Management: What other talent-related trends are you seeing?

Groce: One key leader you have not asked about is the CISO, the Chief Information Security Officer. Information security and cyber security are other leading areas of change. Cyber and CISO deserve equal attention. The increasing prominence of data, mobile and cyber security increase the scale of overall technology to a point that many companies bifurcate (branch)  the CIO’s job into several roles. The ideal structure of CIO vs. CTO and the place of Chief Data, Chief Digital and Chief Information Security Officers within organizations is complex, fluid and situational. The universal truth is that the pace of change in all of these areas is staggering. Companies will remain ahead of the curve by structuring their organizations properly while also growing and maintaining the human capital that is critical to any world-class team.


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