I recently completed a successful Chief Information and Digital Officer search assignment and was struck by the capabilities that distinguished the best from the rest. All of the shortlisted candidates had these capabilities in common to a greater or lesser degree.

Strategic Orientation

Overarching intellectual expertise coupled with horizon thinking was critical, especially in this newly created role – which is very often the case in the digital space where the organisation is grappling with just what structure will apprehend the challenges afoot. Here the candidates needed to be able to set the technology strategy in a complex, asset heavy, B2C environment and build the pathway to the future. This included creating a centre of excellence / single source of truth around technology where there were clear business engagement protocols. This would drive a shift in the perception of technology’s capacity to leverage the business.

Collaborative Intent

Whilst appointees nearly always enjoy a mandate from the CEO to set the vision, it’s up to them to secure executive buy in and support from colleagues and peers from disparate parts of the business, many of whom were unaccustomed to working together. This level of collaborative dexterity is rare and yet it is crucial in making the complex simple and the simple compelling, particularly in an environment where the evolution of operational and information technologies had not been canvassed in a structured way.

Executive Presence

Beyond EQ we are talking about candidates with significant C-appeal: composure, connection, confidence, credibility, clarity and conciseness. Executive presence is the precondition to quickly establishing credibility and building trust, without which any mandate is pointless.

Business Connectivity

Strategic thinking is nice, but in reality, useless if it is not connected to the business via relevant stakeholders. In this instance, investment proposals needed to be developed based on solid foundations and prosecuted well internally. They needed to be fit for purpose, with a strong enterprise view and a clear understanding of the tension between continuity and redundancy. This demands a practical approach from conception to implementation.

Domain Expertise

Some alignment with asset heavy B2C environments was considered useful but not mandatory. Utilities, broader industrials, health and finance were all considered viable sectors, but more importantly from a selection criteria, perspective was the candidate’s previous experience and success in roles of similar scale, complexity and transformative agenda.

Irrespective of whether you are looking to fill a such a role or navigate a selection process to secure such a role, an understanding of these key capabilities will stand you in good stead.


Peter Tulau has enjoyed a diversified career in operations and production management in industrial and process engineering environments before joining one of Australia’s largest recruitment and human services companies. Over a 25 plus year career, Peter worked across executive search and organisational consulting and led major organisational transformations in the industrial and manufacturing sectors. Peter is currently a Director with AltoPartners Australia and the practice head for the industrial, manufacturing and infrastructure sectors.