Are CIO special interest groups worth the time? They are if they deliver the goods.

John Soat, Contributor

September 13, 2007

3 Min Read

Are CIO special interest groups worth the time? They are if they deliver the goods.Remember that old hit song from 1970 by R. Dean Taylor, "Indiana Wants Me. (Lord, I Can't Go Back There.)"? I kept hearing that tune in my head the whole time I was in Indianapolis yesterday for a CIO symposium.

I attended the 4th Annual Indiana IT Symposium in Indianapolis at the behest of Executive Function Management, the company that put together the event. It was sponsored by SIM, the Society for Information Management, one of the oldest and most respected organizations for technology managers. My job was to moderate a panel discussion among four CIOs of local companies: Joe Buser, VP of IS, Delta Faucet; Brad Danner, director of IT, Rolls Royce Corp.; Ed Koschka, network VP of IT and CIO, Community Health Networks; and Doug Rammel, VP of IS, Sports Licensed Division of the Adidas Group.

One thing CIOs have long realized is that they have a lot of the same challenges, no matter what industry they work in. SIM has regional chapters across the country that sponsor regular meetings and get togethers. There are other regional technology organizations that do similar things, but not so exclusive to CIOs as SIM is, such as the Arizona Technology Council, the Pittsburgh Technology Council, and TechColumbus, to name only a few at random. And there are grassroots organizations -- a group of CIOs in a given community that might get together on an ad hoc or semi-regular basis to talk about the challenges of dealing with the local Microsoft or Oracle representatives, to name only a couple of common challenges at random.

All of these are valuable avenues for networking and brainstorming. A three-hour meeting in the evening every couple of months is one thing, though. This event was a day-long symposium including breakfast, lunch, and a cocktail reception in the late afternoon. A day out of the office is a lot to ask any executive, but CIOs especially, with constant project deadlines and the pressure of systems and network performance, are loath to sacrifice that much time. (I know it was a sacrifice for my organization to let me attend this event.)

Besides the high-powered panel discussion I moderated (it was great -- you should have been there) there were many other interesting and involving presentations, such as one by Gerry Weaver, the CIO of the state of Indiana, titled: "Transforming Your IT Department Into A Service-Oriented Organization." His first slide will give you the tenor of his talk: "You have taken over an organization that has a reputation of providing poor or no service at high cost. What do you do?"

Some of the other folks who made presentations: Gail Farnsley, VP and CIO, Cummins ("Creating The Leadership Pipeline"); and David Tonne, director of IT, Liberty Mutual Agency Markets ("Initiating and Managing Large Projects"). You can see the entire agenda here.

So, do you belong to these types of organizations, and do you find them valuable? Second, do you attend day-long symposiums and do you find them worth the time and effort?

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