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Why CIOs Must Fight For Innovation, Not Budget

CIOs speaking at E2 Innovate said IT leaders should embrace the spread of tech spending to marketing and other groups.

The BrainYard's 7 Social Business Leaders Of 2012
The BrainYard's 7 Social Business Leaders Of 2012
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How should a chief information officer react if the chief marketing officer starts making his own technology buying decisions?

A panel of CIOs speaking at E2 Innovate suggested that that could actually be a good thing for the CIO who is prepared for it.

"I see that as an amazing opportunity," said Michael Skaff, CIO at LesConcierges, a concierge service provider based in San Francisco. "I see the CIO as the catalyst who drives the conversation out to the other departments."

[ Building an enterprise social network? Learn 7 Lessons From Social Business Leaders. ]

E2 Innovate, formerly known as Enterprise 2.0, is a conference from InformationWeek's parent company, UBM. Skaff was responding to a question from Eric Lundquist, VP and editorial analyst for the InformationWeek Business Technology Network, moderator of a panel discussion on "Tomorrow's Challenges for Today's CIO." One of the major themes was how CIOs can be agents of innovation, rather than obstacles to it, and the panelists agreed adapting to changing patterns of technology spending is part of that.

Even when Lundquist pressed the point about vendors who do an end run around the CIO and go directly to the business units, Skaff said it was his job to make sure the other executives would nonetheless want to come to him for advice. "I take it as one measure of success or failure the more I find out about projects the business wants to drive outside of IT."

"Most enterprising CIOs will embrace that," agreed Shelton Waggener, senior VP at Internet2, the academic computing network. "IT is never going to be successful as long as it is all capital control and risk management," he said. That's part of the CIO's role, but it can't be the whole story, he said.

A CIO who is thinking ahead will create an enterprise architecture that is adaptable to the introduction of cloud services, including those purchased outside of IT, said Marina Levinson, founder and CEO of the CIO Advisory Group and a former CIO at NetApp and Palm. "The conversation with the business becomes an easy one -- or easier -- as long as you have a strong relationship and you have that architecture defined."

Not to be outdone, Joe Cardenas, CIO at Pacific Compensation Insurance, said he would go farther. "I think you should actually be driving your budget out into the different pieces of the organization and partnering with senior management at executive level to make that happen," he said. "What you'll find at the end of that rainbow is a bigger budget. One of the problems with current IT is we're not trusted with the money. You can actually do more things if you partner with the business to make that happen."

Waggener did caution that the influx of consumer technologies poses some hazards, because consumer products represent "point in time success" whereas enterprise systems must deliver "success over time," which necessitates good data management.

Still, Levinson said CIOs need to lose their reputation for being conservative and risk averse. At a time that they don't necessarily control the whole technology budget, they need to "figure out how to add value in this new world," she said. Maybe CIO needs to stand for something new, she suggested. "I'm recommending to my clients that they develop themselves into being the 'chief innovation officer.'"

Follow David F. Carr on Twitter @davidfcarr. The BrainYard is @thebyard and facebook.com/thebyard

The business world is changing. Is your company ready? E2 Innovate, formerly Enterprise 2.0, is the only event of its kind, bringing strategic business professionals together with industry influencers and next-gen enterprise technologies. Register for E2 Innovate Conference & Expo today and save $200 on current pricing or get a free expo pass. Nov. 12-15, 2012, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, Silicon Valley.

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