Published on November 3, 2023, 6:55 am
As CIOs continue to play a more strategic role within businesses, they face an increasing responsibility not only to leverage new technologies for value delivery but also to embody empathy in their leadership approach. The challenges that keep IT leaders up at night cover a wide range of issues, including improving overall IT performance, enhancing data security, managing process risk and compliance, and meeting the needs of improving business agility.
Shamiel Kimmie, the CIO of Duxbury Networking, has identified several key concerns that make his list. These include addressing talent shortages, managing relationships with other C-level executives, and finding a balance between rational decision-making and emotional intelligence. With so many fronts to battle on, priorities are constantly shifting. However, one particular problem that stands out for Kimmie is South Africa’s brain drain. Since the end of 2020, around 900,000 South Africans have settled abroad. This reality makes it increasingly difficult for businesses to find skilled talent and lengthens the hiring process significantly.
When expanding his team, Kimmie doesn’t solely focus on qualifications. He believes that candidates must possess basic skills, necessary competencies, hands-on experiences, and practical knowledge in addition to their computer science degrees. South Africa’s brain drain has made Kimmie deliberately strategic about upskilling his junior engineers by providing them opportunities to learn from senior staff members. By investing in their professional growth and development, he aims to retain these talented individuals who are often targeted by companies with larger budgets.
One area that no modern CIO can afford to ignore is cybersecurity. As our networks become increasingly interconnected with various devices and technologies, cybersecurity becomes a top priority even if there is a dedicated Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) in place. However, tension can arise when both the CIO and CISO are involved in ensuring innovation happens while maintaining robust security measures. Kimmie acknowledges this potential adversarial relationship but emphasizes the importance of collaboration and mutual respect. Working closely with Duxbury’s CISO, they collaborate to identify vulnerabilities within the business and educate employees about emerging threats.
Managing relationships between C-level executives requires a foundation of mutual respect. Whether it’s between the CIO and CEO or the CIO and CFO, understanding each other’s perspectives is crucial. Kimmie recognizes that it can be challenging for the CIO to communicate the value of their work to the rest of the business. This highlights the importance of clear communication to align goals and perspectives across different teams. One effective way for CIOs to showcase their ideas is by running proof-of-concept projects that demonstrate their viability while identifying any potential technical or logistical challenges.
COVID-19 has brought about significant changes in how businesses operate, including leadership approaches. Kimmie reflects on how he has learned more about his team members’ personal lives and has adjusted his leadership style accordingly. He believes in managing with rationality but acting with compassion, emphasizing transparency, regular meetings, and open discussions to ensure everyone is aligned and supported. Balancing profit-driven decision-making with human connection may be challenging, but Kimmie recognizes its importance for success.
As technology continues to advance rapidly and customer behaviors evolve, CIOs must adapt accordingly and continuously learn. Kimmie acknowledges the need for ongoing learning opportunities, especially in relation to artificial intelligence (AI). However, he also emphasizes that not every new technology will be suitable for every business. Before investing in and deploying new tech solutions, careful assessment is necessary to evaluate alignment with broader goals, potential benefits, costs, and associated risks. Kimmie stresses the value of research and seeking advice from colleagues across industries when making significant business decisions.
In conclusion, being an effective CIO requires a range of skills beyond technical expertise. IT leaders like Shamiel Kimmie must not only embrace new technologies but also navigate talent shortages, manage relationships, foster collaboration between C-level executives, prioritize cybersecurity, communicate value effectively, and adapt to the changing landscape of business. By staying proactive, maintaining transparency, showing empathy, and continuously learning, CIOs can successfully navigate the challenges they face while driving innovation and delivering value to their organizations.