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The role of the CIO is changing – should I get an MBA?

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Hey, Tech Innovator – I am a CIO of a mid-size company and am considering whether I should pursue an MBA or some other IT-related course to enhance my skills.  What is your opinion? ~ Walter P.

Walter, this Tech Innovator has been impressed with the spirit of self-improvement shown by you and other technology leaders of companies large and small.  I admire your desire to pursue ongoing education.

In my opinion, the better route to take is to improve your business skills and think about getting the MBA.  I will explain why.

As CIO, you are responsible for managing technology, infrastructure, and applications in the organization. And your top priority is to keep the company operating efficiently to support the mission of the business.

But your role is changing quicker than you would imagine. Technology is redefining the business models and needs to be considered as strategic tool more than an operational tool.  Adding business value is more important than anything else you do.

What more can you be doing?  The way I see it, the changing role of the CIO has to do with running the business operations, growing the business and adding value to the company by transforming the business.  This means you are more focused on changing business outcomes, not just being responsible for managing the technology infrastructure.

For example, mobile is a big part of the changing business outcomes you should be focused on.  Could you enable new services for your customers, reach more customers or provide additional revenue stream for your company using mobile platforms? Similarly technologies like cloud computing and big data should be viewed as strategic rather than operational initiatives, as they can provide new revenue streams.

It could be that your CEO and marketing department are not thinking of such opportunities, or most likely are not equipped with the right information for the potential of such technologies.

So will acquiring an MBA give you the necessary skills for adding business value as your role changes?

From my personal experience, yes.  Getting an MBA is the best course of action for a technology leader in any organization.  Pursuing an MBA gives you valuable exposure to marketing, finance, strategy and other high level business operations.  The MBA gives you a 360 degree overview of how a business should run, and opens up a whole new way of thinking.

Contrast this with getting an MIS degree, which focuses on acquiring process skills that you may have already acquired in your experience.  These are things that those who run cloud computing need to know, but not the CIO.

In my view, companies need to think of IT not as a cost center but as a profit center, as it can help you grow your business, provide new revenue opportunities or redefine your business model.

I hope this helps, Walter.  You’ve touched on a topic that I am passionate about.  In the weeks ahead, look for more posts about the changing role of the CIO right here on Tech 4 Innovation.

Infographic from Wikibon on Changing Role of the CIO
The changing role of CIO

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