CIOs need to redefine their roles and boundaries in today's age of lean IT and customer-centric business.
"IT's become more of an obstacle than an accelerator. ... Our CIO's nickname is Dr. No. ... Our IT department won't support iPhones--they just pretend iPhones don't exist. ... Our CIO seems more concerned with not offending our vendors than with delivering what we need. ... How is it possible that we spend 80 cents out of every IT dollar on internal stuff? ... Why don't we just outsource the whole flippin' IT operation and get far better service while also saving millions of dollars?
"Come to think of it, all this outsourcing and managed services and cloud computing raise a good question: do CIOs still matter?"
We've all heard these comments, occasionally misguided but often right on target, from our own companies as well as about other companies. Some of us took them to heart and set out to create a new mission for IT, a new sense of discernible business value and assertive leadership and intense business focus. Some of us, but not everyone.
Whether it's fair or not, many CIOs and their IT organizations are now considered guilty until proven innocent: their colleagues, rightly or wrongly, have bought into the fairly brutal stereotypes outlined above in the first paragraph and therefore expect IT to be slow-moving and insular, defensive and expensive, out of phase at best and out of touch at worst, and a chokepoint rather than accelerator for the rapid movement of new ideas and innovative processes throughout the organization.
Again, it's important to recognize that while some CIOs and their teams might richly deserve such reputations, many and perhaps most do not. That perception problem is then compounded by today's financial challenges and technological innovations: bottom-line performance is more essential then ever, and waves of new high-impact IT stuff--from the cloud to mobile to open source to China's rise as a global cyberterrorist--must be factored into IT strategies that are already crowded and complex.
So what's a talented and diligent and market-oriented CIO to do: write letters to the editor? Get the hell out of IT and become a forest ranger? Consult the anti-bullying lobby?
I'd say there's one and only one good course of action for you to take, and it's the one that's always been your best and most-effective approach: rededicate yourself to driving business value, to dazzling customers, to torpedoing bloated infrastructure and unproductive people, and to inspiring your CEO and your CFO to go to sleep every night thanking their lucky stars that you and your team are on their team.
In the past year, we here at Global CIO have pushed this theme in various ways because we continue to see the situation getting worse rather than better, and it's our charter to help provide you with the ideas and analysis and insights to be as successful as possible at your incredibly demanding and world-changing jobs. And before offering my 10-point proposal for how you can give an unmistakably affirmative answer to the question, "Do CIOs Still Matter?", here's a quick list of four of our columns that have hit on this broad theme of The New CIO:
So amid today's broadly unsettled business environment, and with particular focus on redefining business-technology strategies to drive unprecedented levels of business value, here are my 10 ways for CIOs to prove that not only do they still matter, but that they can be more vital and strategic than ever before:
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