6 CIO-Level Skills Your Association Needs for Digital Transformation

David DeLorenzo | 06.22.18
Topics: CIO - Digital Transformation - IT Maturity

Traditional IT has become a utility your association can outsource. Network management and other 20th-century server room skills are no longer core competencies for your association’s IT team.

A 21st-century association must focus instead on building its digital chops along with its capacity for CIO-level strategizing if it wants to lead its members into the future. You need an IT leader that thinks and acts like an association CIO—even if a different title is on their business card.

Does your IT leader pass the association CIO sniff test?

By delegating functional IT competencies like network management to outside experts, your association’s IT leader—regardless of their title—can exercise their strategic competencies, assuming they have them.

Answer these 6 questions to find out if your association's IT leader has CIO-level strategic competencies:

art-2981726_640Does your association CIO (or equivalent)...

  1. Contribute to your organization’s strategic plan?
  2. Frequently participate in executive management activities?
  3. Own and execute the IT departmental budget?
  4. Actively bring ideas and plans for new products and services to the table?
  5. Proactively provide data for improved executive decision-making?
  6. Connect the dots for entangled IT services across your organization?

Now you know whether your association has a functional or strategic technology leader on your team—and, hence, whether the time has come to consider professional development or CIO support services.

Why the technology leadership talent gap in associations?

As the digital landscape rapidly revamps the association technology stack, many organizations are seeking more than an operational IT leader whose experience is in network architecture. Instead, they’re focused on finding a strategic leader who has a visionary approach and sees technology as a business solution. This fundamental shift has left many associations considering alternative approaches, such as interim CIO services, as this new type of CIO is increasingly harder to find among existing association technology personnel.

What CIO-level skills and expertise does your association need?

An IT professional with a traditional, operational mindset isn’t the right person to lead your association through a digital transformation. Your IT leader must be a business strategist and a solutions architect. They must have an association CIO mindset, even if they don’t have the title. You need someone on your IT team—a CIO, IT director, or other IT professional—who exhibits these areas of expertise and takes on these responsibilities.

The 6 CIO-level skills every association CIO needs:

Strategic vision

  • Spots emerging possibilities in your market and throughout the association community from a technology perspective. A visionary thinker, an association CIO sees how these developments might influence your organization and members.
  • Understands your association’s goals, strategies, and operations—and aligns IT with them.
  • Continually deepens their understanding of member needs, challenges, and online behavior.
  • Shifts technology priorities in response to new conditions.

Technology performance

  • Assesses the state of your association’s technology and decides how to move your organization to the next level of IT maturity.
  • Focuses on the user experience across your digital ecosystem.
  • Ensures that technology is used to its full potential throughout the organization and systems work together for optimal business operations.
  • Identifies which applications and workloads are better outsourced than hosted on premise.

Change management

  • Understands the dynamics of change management, including why people resist change and how to encourage adoption.
  • Has the ability and charisma to lead and motivate the organization.

Data management and analytics

  • Provides staff access to the data they need.
  • Ensures data can be pulled from different sources and displayed in accessible formats.
  • Helps leadership use data to make business decisions.


  • Understands enough about the constantly-changing security landscape to know the right questions to ask security experts.
  • Implements recommended security solutions and policies.
  • Educates staff on sound cybersecurity practices.

Soft skills

  • Has superb communication skills, including translating complex issues, listening with empathy, persuading, and coaching.
  • Acts as internal CIO consultant to departmental heads, project leaders, and the C suite.
  • Develops and nurtures relationships with internal stakeholders, fellow executives, vendors, and a professional network of peers.

What if your association lacks these CIO-level skills?

The role of an association’s IT department is more complex and demanding than ever before. Expectations are higher. Maintaining the status quo is no longer an option.

Is your IT department prepared to take on these new responsibilities? If you’re not sure, engage an outside expert, like DelCor, for CIO consulting services to help you assess the readiness of your IT department for this CIO-level work.

Bringing your IT staff ‘up to code’ doesn’t have to mean replacing them, although you may decide it’s an opportune time for staffing adjustments. You could supplement your team’s skills with outside expertise, such as interim CIO services. An interim CIO will help your association identify IT needs and develop a technology strategy, budget, and staffing plan.


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