IT Leadership // IT Strategy
11:37 AM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans

Business Technology: Mixed Messages Conceal IT's Strength

Companies must retool their thinking to avoid falling into a mind-set that can be self-fulfilling, cautions Bob Evans. Think IT as enabler, not IT as cost center.

"Offshoring has gotten a black eye. Half the companies who did it didn't get the numbers they thought." Now, let's say Mr. Foote is looking to be a bit provocative here, and that the "half" figure of unsatisfactory offshoring results could itself be whacked in half to maybe 25%. That would still represent a lot of unhappy customers, and Mr. Foote says in a press release the reactions from employers are very positive for workers: "They're looking instead for ways to keep go-to 'A team' players from jumping ship and, according to our research findings, that's showing up in premium-skills pay increases that are being paid in base-pay adjustments or straight cash bonuses and sometimes both."

Which brings us to a specific job opening advertised last week in the classified section of The Wall Street Journal. Says the headline: "Senior Vice President, Chief Information Officer," and the first line of text says, "International bank in Chicago." Intrigued, I read on, wondering how the employer would describe the responsibilities, challenges, requirements, and priorities. But what a letdown! The ad says *nothing* about helping the bank to grow, to create new revenue streams, to eliminate wasteful spending, boost productivity, enlist key customers in creating new products and services, and foster intimacy with customers. Instead, it was jammed with descriptions of tasks that, while certainly important, aren't the stuff of which SVP CIO's are made. For example: "Ensure coordination between regional IT teams to ensure maximum re-use of systems and technical skills....Responsible for finding ways to make interfaces faster and more efficient....Manage the work of a technology staff of 27 around the globe, including network staff who support futures, help-desk support staff, development staff, and data-center teams....evaluate and determine the technology to be utilized in connecting with global future exchanges."

Again, all of the skills needed to accomplish those tasks are important, but on the whole this ad is almost a caricature of the CIO of 10 years ago: isolated in a ghetto of interfaces, networks, and help-desks, focused solely on efficiencies, and viewed with some disdain as an inconvenient but ultimately necessary cost center. Companies that think this way are buying one-way tickets to mediocrity, and they're going to find that more and more of their employees identify all too closely with the top headline above, and by then it'll be too late to try to save the day by cutting over to headline No. 2.

To discuss this column with other readers, please visit Bob Evans's forum on the Listening Post.

To find out more about Bob Evans, please visit his page on the Listening Post.

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