Yeah, I know, the CFO is on you like a coat of cheap paint, and some breathless new survey says cloud computing and mobile devices will make IT departments obsolete by the end of the week, and your mother-in-law keeps reminding your spouse that she always knew you'd never amount to anything.
I think all the gloom and doom is a lot of garbage. Is the IT profession under pressure? Absolutely—but when, really, has that not been the case? Capabilities like IT that sit at strategic junctures in operations, customer engagement, product development, supply chain, and corporate agility need to be held to the highest possible expectations. Otherwise, what's the point? If we can't live up to that sort of responsibility and accountability, then every CEO should make the CFO's day by giving that CFO the order to call a good outsourcer and flush the whole IT organization down the tubes, with all its detached mumbo-jumbo priorities and secret languages and navel fixations.
But CIOs who were able to survive 2009 are not likely to be such creampuffs—quite the opposite—and I think we're seeing plenty of signs that 2010 holds enormous potential for being a golden time for CIOs because six key developments are falling into place simultaneously:
1) Finally—finally!—IT vendors of various stripes are delivering some fabulous new capabilities to let CIOs clean up the messes they've accumulated over the past 10-15 years while also getting ready to pounce on new opportunities offered by dazzling new capabilities in analytics, real-time operations and decision-making, mobility, and cloud computing. Until recently, I often wondered if some IT vendors lived in parallel universes wherein they would say that they were focusing on customer needs but in fact they were scrapping to win yesterday's market-share battles. I think the lean and vicious experiences of 2009 have pushed those silly attitudes permanently into the past, and IT vendors today have come to realize that the CIOs who used to buy from them out of habit have turned into demanding and highly discriminating shoppers.
2) The age of CIO as High Priest is over and done, and good riddance. For those who practiced that shell game, good riddance—because, having been discovered to be a shameless charlatan, you are surely now looking for other types of work. And for real CIOs, the benefit is that you are now going to be judged like every other C-level executive: by your contributions to customer value, business value, corporate earnings, corporate growth, new-product development, and customer engagement. The Alice In Wonderland days are over—and that means CIOs are now in the mainstream without asterisks, without interpreters, and without the phony and counterproductive distinctions that in the past made them last among C-suite equals.