This content is part of the Essential Guide: CIO role in digital transformation

The role of the CIO today requires 2 key skills

Matt Minetola, CIO at Travelport, reflects on how the role of the CIO in digital transformation has rewritten the rules of IT success.

Is there a recipe for success in the role of the CIO today? According to veteran CIO Matt Minetola, success won't happen without two ingredients: fluent translation skills and the ability to see transformational change as a series of steps.

In this final part of a four-part Q&A, Minetola, CIO at Travelport -- a $2 billion travel commerce platform -- breaks down why translating and simplifying tech talk for business executives, coupled with taking a less "scientific," long-haul approach when developing an organization's digital capabilities are critical to the role of the CIO today.

You can read about Travelport's three-phase digital transformation journey in part one. In part two, Minetola detailed five of the travel commerce platform's "technology enablers" that have been vital to the company's digital transformation process. In part three, he explained how Travelport is investing in emerging technologies like blockchain, AI and virtual reality in 2019.

Editor's note: Matt Minetola recently joined E-Trade as CIO and head of technology.

What is the biggest challenge of the role of the CIO today?

Matt MinetolaMatt Minetola

Matt Minetola: As a CIO -- and I've been in the business for a while -- the biggest challenge is that the conversations you have are fundamentally different today than they were years ago. It's now about enablement and it's about knowing the business. You've got to be able to create this simple picture that has the ability to energize your executive peers as well as the organization because as the change agent, as the chief digital officer, CTO, CIO or whatever, your job is about changing the legacy processes.

You have to know those [legacy processes], be able to bring the technology to bear that changes them and explain why it's necessary to change them. Those are the conversations that have fundamentally changed in the last three to five years. Companies that have people who can do that translation and have those higher-level conversations are usually the ones that you're seeing get ahead.

What advice do you have for today's CIOs going through the digital transformation process?

Minetola: Twenty to 30 years ago, technology was IT and [CIOs] touched bottom on everything and rolled it out and validated it and it was really a structured science. There is a core component of what [CIOs] do today that still needs to be science-based, but a big part of the job that you've got to work on is the 80/20 rule. In every conversation, you find yourself with not enough money, not enough time and more demand and opportunity than you can solve for. I think there's not an IT person on the planet who isn't finding themselves in that position.

In the old days, it was all about cutting through money and getting more for the money. In today's world, you have to figure out how to enable the company and how to enable the business at large as best you can. As I said, I think it's important for you to be able to communicate, but also to realize that if you take time to get to 100%, you're going to miss the window. To have the ability to gather the data and make choices along the way and have that iterative ability to adjust as you go is one of the most important things. You are there to drive your business to change in the market.

Every week there's a new opportunity, there's a new technology breakthrough and there's a new three-person group in Cambridge, [Mass.,] that has a new widget that can do some portion of what you have. Your ability to digest that, apply it and adjust it is probably the most important skill that the IT executive has. Whether you're the chief digital officer, the CTO, the CIO or whatever, your ability to continually evolve [your company's capabilities] and make sure that you adjust on an ongoing basis is probably the No. 1 skill to have. That would be the advice that I have: Don't get bogged down by planning processes or trying to 'science' things out.

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