(Quick Veterans Day note: to all the veterans out there and to all their families, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your tremendous service and sacrifices that keep the rest of us safe and free!)
A persuasive argument could be made that this issue deserves to be #1 or #2 on the list of the Top 10 Tech Stories for 2010, so let me briefly explain why I slotted this profound transformation from high-tech high priests to customer-centric business leader at #9.
First, the transformation is not new—in today's top-performing companies, the CIO long ago moved out of the corporate IT ghetto and became a mainstream business leader focused on driving corporate strategy and execution through innovative deployments of and perspectives on technology.
But 2010 has certainly been a year in which that evolution was dramatically accelerated due to global economic conditions, the need for businesses to move faster than ever before, and a growing impatience among CEOs with CIOs who acted as if their first loyalty was to ITIL dogma rather than to customers and other company initiatives.
Second, the very fact that CIOs have joined the mainstream of business leaders is more of a return to normalcy—or at least what should have been normal—rather than some mystical experience that just exploded on the scene.
Third, the issues stacked above the CIO Transformation on this list of 2010's top stories would have happened regardless of whether that CIO hyper-evolution occurred or not—the CIO's new and richer role has not been so much a driver of those other changes as it has been driven and accelerated by them.
In that context, let me return to a theme I've touched on in the past and want to reiterate here: the old bromide that "the CIO's job is to align IT with the business" is a recipe for disaster, and symbolizes the old status of the CIO as an industrious and committed quasi-executive more focused on servers and uptime than on customer engagement and revenue growth.
The very phrase itself screams out the problem: if you accept the premise that "the CIO's job is to align IT with the business, then you also accept the premise that the CIO and his/her IT organization are not part of the business. If you're not part of the business, then what are you? A support organization? A cost center? A back-office function?
Anybody notice what's been happening over the past few years to such customer-isolated cost centers? It's pretty ugly:
They're getting isolated, marginalized, targeted, and inexorably ground down until nothing is left.
Companies can't afford to have big and fairly expensive operations detached from "the business" and led by executives-in-title-only who aren't part of "the business" and who must instead forever play catch-up with the comings and goings of "the business."
The new and transformed CIO is a business leader prized for applying technical expertise to tying together strategy and execution, to leveraging his/her unique knowledge of the organization's end-to-end business processes, to weaving social technology aggressively into the company's operations and culture, and who's leading the charge to show how IT can generate new and more-profitable forms of customer engagements and partner and supplier dynamics, and who's the antithesis of the "Dr. No" stereotype that has stunted the growth of or crippled the careers of so many CIOs who didn't eliminate the gap between "the business" and IT.
The good news is that in 2011, CEOs continue to be extremely bullish on the power of technology to drive serious competitive advantage and customer opportunities. The bad news for foot-dragging CIOs is that that potential will be unleashed with or without you.
So as we roll out the entire list of The Top 10 Tech Stories for 2010, here's where we stand:
#11: Microsoft: (No, my math's not that bad—it's just that here at Global CIO, we always try to exceed expectations: if we promise 10, we like to deliver at least 11!) Read all about it at Global CIO: Top 10 Tech Stories Of 2010: New Strategies, Platforms, And CEOs.
#10: Cloud Computing: Get the full story and background at Global CIO: Top 10 Tech Stories Of 2010: New Strategies, Platforms, And CEOs.
#9: The CIO Transformation
And below, you'll find some extensive analyses we've done throughout the year on the ongoing transformation of the CIO profession and priorities, from big challenges with mobile and social media to the massive opportunities those and other new technologies afford to CIOs eager to be inextricably interlinked with their businesses.
Coming tomorrow: #8 is smaller than a breadbox and a whole heckuva lot more valuable.
Bob Evans is senior VP and director of
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