The Observer: The Many Roles Of A CIO - InformationWeek
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Lou Bertin
Lou Bertin

The Observer: The Many Roles Of A CIO

Add seductress and supplicant to the business roles such as IT strategist that a CIO must take on to be successful, says Lou Bertin.

Supplicancy is, it appears, a requirement that simply won't be eradicated. Even with the spectre of Sarbanes-Oxley and the prospect of CIO standing for "CEO Incarceration Ordered," funding remains an inevitable source of friction. Yes, spending in general is up. And no, spending in general isn't nearly sufficient to achieve the goals Cash and Pearlson detail.

To be sure, the prescriptions Cash and Pearlson offer, if embraced by the uppermost levels of management, would go a long way toward alleviating the need for out-and-out begging on the part of IT organizations, but a certain amount of on-one's-knees pleading is inevitably going to come with the territory for CIOs anywhere.

One small ray of hope: a CIO's recent admission that "we're getting more of a hearing now than we did in the past. The 'Sarbox' scare stories have helped, but not as much as I'd like. The good news is that we're full partners at the table, the bad news is that it's because of fear of bad publicity, much more so than bad performance, just like Y2K."

To the last point of the CIO-As-Sychophant, we're dealing here with human nature, the very thing even Cash and Pearlson can't counter, no matter how persuasive their arguments and how impeccable their insights.

Consider the long-suffering CIO at a Southern California transportation-supplies company. After much arguing, he got his privately held employer to invest in business-intelligence tools on a pilot basis for the same reasons that any organization invests in business-intelligence--insight on internal performance and shifting customer needs, real-time income and operational snapshots, the usual litany.

I'll let him pick up the narrative. "So we get the managers together, they gave me the filters they wanted and the executives gave me what they wanted their dashboards to look like. We were set. But there was one thing I overlooked. Senior management not only wanted their dashboards to look a certain way, they wanted the dashboards to tell them certain things. Things like 'everything is going great.' That, I couldn't make happen. It was an expensive pilot and guess who got the blame."

If Cash and Pearlson have a cure for that kind of management, I've got a publisher for them.

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

To find out more about Lou Bertin, please visit his page on the Listening Post.

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