Orginally published on CIO.co.uk, April 2015. People skills in technology leaders are as important as ever.

The abiding memory that I’ll have about this year’s CIO100 judging is how solid people skills were a differentiator for so many of the eventual top 10. What is worrying is how this should still be seen as exceptional within our industry.

With over 60 years of business computing under our belts, we still haven’t universally accepted that the successful delivery of technology is as much an exercise in social and cultural change as it is about engineering. The rise of commoditised and utility computing gave maybe a moment when we would have seen a change in perspective. Without the need to manage tin, focus could be placed on developing capability to manage change, from top to bottom in the IT organisation.

But it seems that the rise of digital is putting that opportunity into the shade of DevOps. Focus shifts from becoming a supporting service to becoming, well – something else. But still generally not that people-focused.

The thing is, if you want to credibly deliver technology, you need to credibly manage change. And that needs to start within your own organisation: great people management and leadership is not optional – it’s a vital part of being able to deliver the full package whether internal systems or customer facing services. That great technology leaders like Anna Barsby have this talent is not coincidental.

I’ve no doubt that in the next few years CIOs will come under increasing pressure to justify their existence. The CDO/CTO/CMO/CIO debate will mean that some, in a period of organisational retrenchment, will choose to get “back to basics” and focus on what they know best – the technology. That will, from what we’ve seen this year of the truly transformational CIOs in this years 100, be a big mistake.

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