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10/10/2007
09:40 AM
Bob Evans
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'The Long Twilight Of The CIO'--Is Darkness Descending On Your Career?

Author/blogger Nick Carr's recent post claiming it's twilight time for the CIO role is somewhat overstated but still quite insightful. I'd put it this way: by mid-2008, CIOs who've failed to embrace change as a competitive advantage and failed to make revenue growth and customer loyalty their top priorities will be fired. And that will be a good thing for the profession.

Author/blogger Nick Carr's recent post claiming it's twilight time for the CIO role is somewhat overstated but still quite insightful. I'd put it this way: by mid-2008, CIOs who've failed to embrace change as a competitive advantage and failed to make revenue growth and customer loyalty their top priorities will be fired. And that will be a good thing for the profession.Not sure into which camp you might fall? Take a look at these questions and then pretend your CEO is filling out the answers for you -- is that an evaluation you're going to be eager to see?

    1) Do business-unit heads actively seek your involvement and input in strategic discussions and projects, or do they wait as long as possible before engaging you and your team?

    2) Can you point to a series of revenue-enhancing achievements to which you and your team have contributed?

    3) Can you list 10 key customers who would enthusiastically tell your CEO how you and your team made them more successful?

    4) Can you explain in simple, business-oriented language how you and your team have enabled your company to shift more time and money away from maintenance chores and toward business-changing opportunities?

    5) Can you easily articulate how you and your team have helped make your salespeople win more new business and keep more old business while also delivering greater value to customers?

    6) Can you make a 10-minute presentation to your board of directors in which you show, in business terms, how you and your team have helped increase your company's ability to compete and innovate in the past two years?

    7) If you received a job offer from a competitor, would your CEO aggressively counter the offer, or would he merely offer you a hearty handclasp?

    8) And finally, if you compared your answers to these questions to the answers from your CEO, how similar would the results be?

I'm not agreeing with Carr's broader assertion that "IT doesn't matter," and I'm also not agreeing with his claim that the Career Is Over for the entire profession. But I have no doubt that the old ways of thinking about IT -- internal versus external, reactive versus innovative, hermetically sealed versus vigorously engaged -- are over, dead, and gone. And that means that for those CIOs who have not broken ranks with that type of OldThink, there is no future -- the world has passed you by.

Here's an excerpt from Carr's blog post -- again, I think he overreaches a bit but nonetheless captures the challenge facing today's business leaders who happen to be running corporate technology organizations:

We've entered the long twilight of the CIO position, a sign that information technology is finally maturing. Technical expertise is becoming centralized in the supply industry, freeing workers and managers to concentrate on the manipulation and sharing of information. It will be a slow transition -- CIOs will continue to play critical roles in many firms for many years -- but we're at last catching up with the vision expressed back in 1990 by the legendary CIO Max Hopper, who predicted that IT would come to "be thought of more like electricity or the telephone network than as a decisive source of organizational advantage. In this world, a company trumpeting the appointment of a new chief information officer will seem as anachronistic as a company today naming a new vice president for water and gas. People like me will have succeeded when we have worked ourselves out of our jobs. Only then will our organizations be capable of embracing the true promise of information technology."

So: Did Max Hopper have it right?

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