Strategic CIO // Executive Insights & Innovation
Commentary
4/1/2009
09:46 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
Commentary
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ConocoPhillips And Harrah's Put CIO Positions On Ice

A $240 billion energy company and the world's largest casino company, each deeply dependent on IT in every facet of its business, say they don't plan to fill their recently vacated CIO positions. Is this (a) a quirky coincidence, (b) a short-term savings plan, (c) a sign of things to come, or (d) mistake they'll soon regret, or (e) a chance to create new titles that better reflect current responsibilities?

A $240 billion energy company and the world's largest casino company, each deeply dependent on IT in every facet of its business, say they don't plan to fill their recently vacated CIO positions. Is this (a) a quirky coincidence, (b) a short-term savings plan, (c) a sign of things to come, or (d) mistake they'll soon regret, or (e) a chance to create new titles that better reflect current responsibilities?Whichever answer you picked, these developments have to be factored in to the new reality facing CIOs in these challenging times and highlighted in today's Global CIO column: What CIOs Must Do To Survive The Recession.

As my colleague Rob Preston recently reported, Harrah's Entertainment has promoted two executives to succceed Tim Stanley, the company's former CIO and senior VP of gaming and innovation, who resigned about two months ago. Harrah's said it has no plans to hire the CIO and will instead divide Stanley's former responsibilities between its newly named senior VP and CTO, and senior VP of enterprise effectiveness.

Harrah's said SVP and CTO Katrina Lane will focus on customer facing IT and application development, while SVP of enterprise effectiveness John Baker will concentrate on the company's IT infrastructure. Both report to CEO Gary Loveman.

At energy giant ConocoPhillips, former CIO Gene Batchelder, who also held the title of senior VP, Services, has been promoted to Chief Administrative Officer with responsibility for global shared services, HR, facilities, IT, security, aviation, executive services, corporate affairs, investor relations, corporate communications, and contributions. Batchelder will report to CEO Jim Mulva.

Taking over the responsibility for ConocoPhillips' IT but without the CIO title is Marty Schoenthaler, who's been promoted to general manager of Corporate Information Technology after serving as general manager, Information Services. Schoenthaler will report to former CIO and newly named CAO Batchelder.

A ConocoPhillips spokeswoman said that while the company has not permanently eliminated the CIO role/position, "we don't plan to have one for now. The IT function remains whole in its functionality and retains its long-term leadership, including Marty and Gene."

So which multiple-choice answer did you select? I'm picking (c) and (e): signs of things to come, along with taking the opportunity to create new titles that more accurately reflect today's business realities. Harrah's is clearly saying it needs one person focused 100% of the time on ensuring effective (interpret that as "less expensive") and stable infrastructure, and a separate person creating the vision and execution for using business-technology to enrich and enhance customer experiences. And at ConocoPhillips, the new top IT person has received a promotion, has seen his organization's name move from the rather dated Information Services to the somewhat more modern Corporate Information Technology, and still has his longtime former CIO close at hand for counsel.

At the same time, the global recession has reset the expectations for every employee at every level, and CIOs need to map out their priorities based not on the traditions and norms of the past, which in today's world are no longer relevant, but on the business requirements of the future. When a $240 billion oil company and a multibillion-dollar casino operator both decide at precisely the same time to put the CIO position on ice, that's a very clear sign that things are not what they used to be.

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