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XChange: CIOs Should Leave The Technology To VARs

Larry Bonfante, CIO of the U.S. Tennis Association, says CIOs should focus on being business leaders, not technology experts.

That was the central message from Larry Bonfante, CIO of the U.S. Tennis Association and founder of CIO Bench Coach, an executive coaching practice for IT executives. Bonfante believes that today's CIOs are fighting a losing battle by trying to be IT experts and mastering technology instead of business.

"Everything has changed," Bonfante said, because technology is changing the way we live so rapidly and CEO and executive board expectations of CIOs are so high. Trends such as the consumerization of IT and bring-your-own-device are making CIOs' tasks more difficult.

[Related: XChange Solution Provider 2012 Coverage ]

"When your experience at home is better than your experience at work, that's a problem," he said, adding that the consumerization of IT is a reality that's not going to change.

Bonfante said CIOs need to focus on driving top-line revenue and not the actual technology and gadgets. "CIOs must stop being technologists and start being business leaders," he said.

But there is some good news, Bonfante said. As CIOs move their focus more toward the business, that creates huge opportunities for solution providers to fill the role of the technology expert and become much more valuable to their clients. And as more utility aspects of IT are being moved to the cloud, there's more emphasis on the "I" than on the "T" for CIOs.

Bonfante told the XChange audience that it's important for solution providers to understand what today's CIOs should be striving toward. To that end, he offered a few advice points on how CIOs should operate:

  • CIOs must inspire their team through a compelling vision, and that vision must be tied to what employees actually do, not what their job description is. Bonfante used an example of one of his own employees at the U.S. Tennis Association, who is a database analyst but who describes his job as promoting the sport of tennis across America.

  • CIOs should be communication experts. Too often, Bonfante said, CIOs speak their own language and become isolated within their organizations. But they should learn how to communicate effectively with every employee and not get bogged down in tech talk.

  • CIOs need to be effective relationship managers and learn how to make other people's jobs easier. Bonfante also said CIOs should be mentors and help develop employees to better learn how to leverage each individual's strengths.

  • CIOs should be agents of change and help foster a culture of creativity and innovation within the organization. "People need to know it's safe to try things that may not work," he said.

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