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Global CIO: My Farewell Column: 10 Big Things For CIOs To Think About

Your humble columnist says goodbye and thanks, and poses 10 big questions today's CIOs need to answer.

All good things come to an end, and so it is with the very great honor and privilege I've had to chat with you every day about the IT business and the CIO profession. This is my final column and I thank you heartily for all the ideas you've shared, the criticisms you've raised, and the lessons you've taught me.

In this final column, I've compiled the 10 most important ideas and lessons that I've come across over the past 2-1/2 years in my engagement with you via Global CIO. I've discussed all of these at different times but feel that now's the ideal time to summarize the most-strategic and most-timely ideas toward which today's CIOs need to be devoting a great deal of time and thought.

1) The Power Of Transformation And Transformative Thinking As CIO, you're one of the few leaders who can not only see but understand at a gut level the entire range of end-to-end processes within your company. Are you making the most of that opportunity by pointing out sluggish approaches, wasted opportunities, and cost-sucking latency? Are you combining that unique perspective with your equally unique awareness of technology's capabilities to push your company beyond merely what is has been and toward what it must become? Would your peers inside your company and among your customers say you're a transformer—or would they say you're a preserver of the status quo?

2) What Business Are You In Today? Is Nike a sneaker company? A sports-apparel company? An athletic-equipment company? Or a lifestyle company? How about Amazon—what business is it in today? Or ESPN? As customers—both consumer and business—demand more from the companies they buy from, and as more transactions move online, and as collaboration obliterates traditional boundaries inside and outside our companies, businesses have to rapidly evolve their business models and their products and services relentlessly, and each of us needs to be equally relentless in asking, 'What business am I in today? What will my customers pay me for tomorrow that they won't pay me for today? Or what are they paying me for today that they won't pay me for next month?' As technology becomes the conduit through which almost all customer engagements and transactions occur, CIOs are in superb positions to help identify, quantify, and manage these new opportunities and possibilities. Are you helping your company think about—and act upon—the big question of what business you're in today?

3) Don't 'Align' With The Business; BE The Business We've all heard countless times the old bromide that tells us that "The CIO's job is to align IT with the business." In my opinion, that's one of the most deadly and damaging philosophies a CIO can embrace because at its very core it says that IT is not part of the business—it's some separate, detached, subservient, out-of-phase tag-along. It's also a philosophy that brands the CIO as a follower and not a leader, and that defines the IT organization as one that is passive and reactive rather than nimble and active and opportunistic. Of those two types, which do you think CEOs are going to favor in the high-velocity business world of today and tomorrow?

4) You Are NOT A 'Service Organization' Are you preserving the status quo or helping to create the future that will keep your company relevant, engaged, and successful? Do you sit back and wait for "the business" to decide what it wants to be, and then wait some more until they decide to tell you what you need to do to stay relevant? Do you accept that while you're a C-level executive, you're not quite as fully vested as the other C-level folks? Are you a business leader who happens to have superb technology insights, or are you a technology whiz who happens to have a fancy title? The companies that will win and thrive and grow and achieve in the next 5-10 years will be dependent on superb IT capabilities, and that means that the CIOs at those companies must be aggressive and assertive leaders, and not wallflowers who sit back and wait to be told what the folks at the big-kids table want them to do.

5) Are You Flipping The 80/20 Ratio? Because it'll kill you if you don't. Here' s why:

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