How to be a successful CIO in higher education
- CIOs in higher education are leading its digital transformation
- Successful CIOs must have people skills, project management skills, and be able to build relationships with external partners
- Connecting is the most important thing an IT leader can do
Robert Westcott, Chief Information Officer, Royal Holloway University of London
How does it differ being a CIO in higher education compared to other industries? Well, most of the other industries, when I was a CIO in those sectors, they were also going through the digital transformation experience. And I think higher education is looking like that now. It's not just another sector. It's a very different kind of sector—a different organisational structure, different governance, different decision-making processes. And these are all very important for a CIO to understand.
I think to be successful—I can divide that into three different sections, really. A successful CIO relates to and is trusted by the business. So, people skills are absolutely essential—to be trusted by your own team, trusted by your stakeholders, trusted by your constituency. And that means understanding their challenges and what they have to do. So that's number one.
Number two is you must be able to deliver. So, you have to be really skilled at projects and project methodologies. And then the third thing, I think, which is very important for CIOs in other sectors—and I think will become important in the higher education sector as well—is being able to relate to external partners.
Right down the bottom of the list is being good at technology. You still have to be good at technology. But these days, as a CIO, it's only 10% of what you do.
Connecting is the most important thing that an IT leader can do at the moment. Get out from behind your desk or your monitor, go and meet people, have cups of coffee with them, meet them where they live, walk a mile in their shoes, hear what they have to say.