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Bob Evans
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Global CIO: Even Oracle & SAP Agree: The Tactical CIO Is Dead

Top execs from the two enterprise-software powerhouses say CIOs must lead growth, transformation, and business impact.

Compared to the locked-cage death-matches in which Oracle and SAP often find themselves, lots of otherwise intense IT-industry competition seems almost ho-hum by comparison. So when those two companies agree on something, it's usually worthwhile to see what's behind that singular harmonic convergence.

In this case, that most-uncommon common ground has to do with the strategic priorities and career prospects for the chief information officers who have traditionally been the primary customers and points of contact for both SAP and Oracle. The operative word there is "traditionally" because while many CIOs will remain intensely engaged with those strategic IT vendors, the business impact and revenue-side potential of enterprise software decisions and deployments have become so vital to big companies' ability to innovate and accelerate and compete that both SAP and Oracle are targeting CEOs and other non-tech executives more than ever before.

That's particularly true here in mid-2010 as CEOs, while still dearly mindful of the need for cost control, are focusing enormous energy on rekindling and accelerating growth opportunities, and are leaning hard on IT's potential to make major contributions to that top-priority effort.

So, for CIOs accustomed to leading with growth and following with technical attributes, this is a welcome and eagerly anticipated step forward. But this same development will simultaneously end the careers of those CIOs who, by inclination or discomfort or simple lack of business acumen, have failed to embrace their roles as broad-based business leaders and have instead hunkered down in technology discussions, technology debates, technology evaluations, technology priorities, and, ultimately, technology myopia.

But hey—don't take my word for it; you can hear it directly from Oracle president Charles Phillips and SAP co-CEO Bill McDermott.

Let's start with this comment from McDermott in a phone conversation last week after SAP announced its quarterly earnings, and you can read more on McDermott's perspectives in our recent column called Global CIO: Inside SAP: 10 Factors Behind Its Dramatic Turnaround. I asked McDermott to discuss the primary issue customer CEOs tell him SAP must address:

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"Growth. They need to grow—every company we talk to says that," McDermott said. "And the higher you go in the organization, the more you see that growth is back on the agenda and is the major topic of discussion. Everyone is looking to create the right plan or agenda to grow, sometimes directly in the industry they're in, and sometimes out into new businesses, sometimes within their own established ecosystem or sometimes out."

McDermott then spoke bluntly about the stepped-up role CIOs have to play if they want to be a part of those growth initiatives:

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