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The CIO Paradox: Battling the Contradictions of IT Leadership

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Regardless of industry, most major companies are becoming technology companies. The successful management of information has become so critical to a company’s goals, that in many ways, now is the age of the CIO. Yet IT executives are besieged by a host of contradictions: bad technology can bring a company to its knees, but corporate boards rarely employ CIOs; CIOs must kee Regardless of industry, most major companies are becoming technology companies. The successful management of information has become so critical to a company’s goals, that in many ways, now is the age of the CIO. Yet IT executives are besieged by a host of contradictions: bad technology can bring a company to its knees, but corporate boards rarely employ CIOs; CIOs must keep costs down at the very same time that they drive innovation. CIOs are focused on the future, while they are tethered by technology decisions made in the past. These contradictions form what Martha Heller calls The CIO Paradox, a set of conflicting forces that are deeply embedded in governance, staffing, executive expectations, and even corporate culture. Heller, who has spent more than 12 years working with the CIO community, offers guidance to CIOs on how to attack, reverse, or neutralize the paradoxical elements of the CIO role. Through interviews with a wide array of successful CIOs, The CIO Paradox helps readers level the playing field for IT success and get one step closer to bringing maximum value to their companies.


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Regardless of industry, most major companies are becoming technology companies. The successful management of information has become so critical to a company’s goals, that in many ways, now is the age of the CIO. Yet IT executives are besieged by a host of contradictions: bad technology can bring a company to its knees, but corporate boards rarely employ CIOs; CIOs must kee Regardless of industry, most major companies are becoming technology companies. The successful management of information has become so critical to a company’s goals, that in many ways, now is the age of the CIO. Yet IT executives are besieged by a host of contradictions: bad technology can bring a company to its knees, but corporate boards rarely employ CIOs; CIOs must keep costs down at the very same time that they drive innovation. CIOs are focused on the future, while they are tethered by technology decisions made in the past. These contradictions form what Martha Heller calls The CIO Paradox, a set of conflicting forces that are deeply embedded in governance, staffing, executive expectations, and even corporate culture. Heller, who has spent more than 12 years working with the CIO community, offers guidance to CIOs on how to attack, reverse, or neutralize the paradoxical elements of the CIO role. Through interviews with a wide array of successful CIOs, The CIO Paradox helps readers level the playing field for IT success and get one step closer to bringing maximum value to their companies.

30 review for The CIO Paradox: Battling the Contradictions of IT Leadership

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jay

    At one time I was a voracious reader of CIO Magazine, to keep track of the corporate IT industry in my role as a new technology introduction analyst for a large company. I learned from the stories and especially appreciated the many sources they quoted, often CIOs in a variety of industries, from companies large and small. There was always something to learn about this role that I aspired to. Although my career took a different turn, I read “The CIO Paradox” understanding that the author was a w At one time I was a voracious reader of CIO Magazine, to keep track of the corporate IT industry in my role as a new technology introduction analyst for a large company. I learned from the stories and especially appreciated the many sources they quoted, often CIOs in a variety of industries, from companies large and small. There was always something to learn about this role that I aspired to. Although my career took a different turn, I read “The CIO Paradox” understanding that the author was a writer for CIO Magazine, and likely had the kind of style I found easy to learn from, and easy to consume. That is true here. The topics are taken from columns written for CIO by the author. I was able to compare the many tactics and suggestions mentioned in the book to the IT management of companies I have worked for, and could see good and bad. The author comes from a background of recruiting for high level IT jobs, and this informs her book. There are plenty of examples where the author brings in anecdotes of her history of recruiting to describe the types of paradoxes faced by CIOs. My favorite paradox, one that reflects my recent career is illustrated as "As CIO, you are your company's futurist and its archivist." Heller goes on to illustrate this paradox with examples, anecdotes, and at times provides tactics. The author includes a rather large section on CIO membership on boards. I assume this has become a prominent topic for CIOs related to recruiting, hence this author’s focus, but I didn’t see the obvious relationship to the other paradoxes Heller described. Other than that minor nit, I enjoyed the writing style and most of the topics. This would be a good read for people wanting to become CIOs and for those already there looking for some new analogies they could use in their discussions with business leaders and upper management. I also think this would be a good read right before interviewing for a CIO position for the fresh take on the role. I would gladly read more by this author.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Laughran

    I just finished my “advance reading copy” of “The CIO Paradox: Battling the Contradictions of IT Leadership” by Martha Heller. The book is one of the few I’ve read that actually goes beyond a really well articulated description of the shared experiences of CIOs. I thought the book did a remarkable job of capturing the nuanced relationships between situations, roles and context with the anecdotes and guidance that are provided for each paradox. For example, there is extensive use of CIO quotes fr I just finished my “advance reading copy” of “The CIO Paradox: Battling the Contradictions of IT Leadership” by Martha Heller. The book is one of the few I’ve read that actually goes beyond a really well articulated description of the shared experiences of CIOs. I thought the book did a remarkable job of capturing the nuanced relationships between situations, roles and context with the anecdotes and guidance that are provided for each paradox. For example, there is extensive use of CIO quotes from conversations, mini case studies that are used to illustrate the practical application of suggested approaches and some self-assessments (some of which were developed by CIOs). In each case, what the authored shared was helpful and did not come off as shameless self-promotion. Much of the book can be thought of as lessons learned from one CIO to another. I recommend it for any current and aspiring CIO. Someone looking to hire and/or retain a good CIO would be well served to read it as well.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lars Corneliussen

    About how the odd distinction between IT and the business and how to go from IT as an internal function to IT as welcome investment and contributor to business and business strategy by tying everything to business outcome. It will take long before we get rid of the "Enterprise IT" mindset moving towards a "software eats the world" product mindset. Also read this: https://svpg.com/moving-from-an-it-to... About how the odd distinction between IT and the business and how to go from IT as an internal function to IT as welcome investment and contributor to business and business strategy by tying everything to business outcome. It will take long before we get rid of the "Enterprise IT" mindset moving towards a "software eats the world" product mindset. Also read this: https://svpg.com/moving-from-an-it-to...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kyle Haines

    Great for emerging CIOs Great for aspiring and emerging CIOs who can skim sections not germane to them in their current roles. Saw validation of some core beliefs that I’ve honed over my career.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Leeroy

    It was a solid 'fine'. Lots of anecdotes and quotes supporting strategies that don't feel very innovative in 2019. I'd suggest reading the conclusion first. If you find areas that are gripping or counterintuitive, read that chapter. It was a solid 'fine'. Lots of anecdotes and quotes supporting strategies that don't feel very innovative in 2019. I'd suggest reading the conclusion first. If you find areas that are gripping or counterintuitive, read that chapter.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ratnakar

    Loved the book. Gave me new perspective of how my boss thinks ;)

  7. 4 out of 5

    Epol Doc

    Good read Good read for ICT executives seeking a leadership role in an organization to understand the expectations that come with it

  8. 5 out of 5

    Josh Cline

    Good book on IT paradoxes as well as some thoughts on solutions for them.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lindsey

    I thought this book was going to be so enlightening at first, but it really wasn't. It never gets too deep into any of the paradoxes in any investigative journalist sense, merely documents many anecdotal situations that back up the list of supposed paradoxes (that may or may not expound toward anything useful). So, great, yay we've learned there are paradoxes, but don't expect this book to convey anything useful about what to do about them. I gave it three stars because it was nice to see some o I thought this book was going to be so enlightening at first, but it really wasn't. It never gets too deep into any of the paradoxes in any investigative journalist sense, merely documents many anecdotal situations that back up the list of supposed paradoxes (that may or may not expound toward anything useful). So, great, yay we've learned there are paradoxes, but don't expect this book to convey anything useful about what to do about them. I gave it three stars because it was nice to see some of the common IT problems all neatly summed up, at least that much came across very well.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sam Motes

    The CIO Paradox discusses the competing challenges of leading IT that make the job so challenging. It paints the picture of a true business leader who understands the business plus the table stakes of knowing how IT plays into the needs of the company. Found it a very informative and thought provoking read I would recommend to any leader in IT.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Alex Devero

    Today, technology is what enables a business to be successful. Therefore, IT should be seen as a crucial part of any business strategy. Yet, CIOs are constantly struggling to be taken into consideration. To overcome this CIO paradox, CIOs should look beyond the IT department and focus on how they can influence the entire business and instill an innovative mindset in their team.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Michael Webb

    An excellent summary of real-world CIO experience along with discussion of where that role is heading in today's technology landscape. Some excellent advice. I will be sure to revisit the chapter summaries often. An excellent summary of real-world CIO experience along with discussion of where that role is heading in today's technology landscape. Some excellent advice. I will be sure to revisit the chapter summaries often.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tony

    Had I been reading the CIO Magazine column there would have been no need to read this book. It could have been shortened and more punchy but it is an interesting read with insights into any large technology department now and what it may be in the future

  14. 5 out of 5

    Brent Keck

    It seems that there are so many paradoxes that the CIO must deal with that they become one of the most well rounded executives at any business, if they move out of the manager role and into the leader/innovator role. Lot's of good information in this book. It seems that there are so many paradoxes that the CIO must deal with that they become one of the most well rounded executives at any business, if they move out of the manager role and into the leader/innovator role. Lot's of good information in this book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sondra

    This book provides some interesting ideas to think about if you think you might want to be a CIO.

  16. 5 out of 5

    VENKATRAMAN C K

    excellent stories from the field.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lew Sauder

    Decent overview of the challenges (via paradoxes) faced by a CIO.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Pedro Martinez

    Easy reading and well structured Selfcomplacent book for the ones dealing with IT in big corporations.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Victor

  20. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  21. 5 out of 5

    Iwan

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jimmy Cams

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

  24. 5 out of 5

    Eduard

  25. 4 out of 5

    Dennis Cuffel

  26. 4 out of 5

    Eric Biven

  27. 5 out of 5

    Campbell

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ellen M

  29. 4 out of 5

    Joel Salazar

  30. 5 out of 5

    WILLIAM H PETERS

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