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A top 10 list for how to be a successful CIO

The Society for Information Management recently asked a panel of CIOs to talk about the attributes of a successful CIO. For CIO Karan Sorensen, an emphasis on the greater good is a must –from developing your staff and learning your company’s business to being the “change agent” role model for your business peers in these tough times.

Sorensen oversees the information technology systems and support for two operating companies of New Brunswick, N.J-based Johnson & Johnson Inc.: J&J Pharmaceutical Research & Development and Centocor Research & Development. She also has responsibility for setting and executing the IT agenda for Centocor’s finance, communications, human resources, sourcing and procurement departments. She put her advice in the form of a top 10 list. Here is a condensed version:

1. Be an inspirational and ethical leader: “Focus on the greater good if you expect others to follow.”

2. Don’t be afraid to be a change agent: “Everything we do in information technology creates change. We’re comfortable with change. Be that beacon of light to the business when they are going through rough times and change.” And when you take your place at the executive table? Go in as a business leader, says Sorensen. “Help bring the business discussions forward. That way, when you want to talk about IT, they are ready to listen because you have brought leadership into the room.”

3. Enable leadership: “Develop individuals, organizational talent and successors. That can be done through mentoring, coaching, sponsoring and networking, but it is all about enabling leadership. Be a leader of leaders and do not hold anyone back.”

4. Know how to run a business: Understand the “back office” — human resources, finance, procurement, negotiating, contracting, vendor management.

5. Understand the commercial side of your business, the sales and marketing, customer support, the multiple business channels.

6. Understand your business’s operations. What makes your business tick? “Whether in manufacturing or in services, understand what it takes to get from input to the output.”

7. Make friends with the R&D function at your company: “Way too many CIOs pass by their R&D departments quickly. Get in there. It is amazing the discovery, the creativity and partnership that they need from you. New ideas are where your future lies.”

8. Deliver on regulatory compliance. Understand the regulatory environment your company lives in and respect that.

9. Deliver on infrastructure. Most companies find that up to 50% of the IT spend is on infrastructure. “You can lead and drive change. There are amazing things to educate your company on, like cloud computing.”

10. Deliver on your commitments — on scope, schedules, budgets, quality and business benefits from IT projects.

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