Office of the CIO: New Structure Needed, Some Say

Few commercial companies have embraced the concept of an office of the CIO, at least by that name.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

December 6, 2003

2 Min Read

Is the CIO job too complex for just one person? Some pundits say so, arguing for the creation of an "office of the CIO," or a similar management structure.

Darwin John, former CIO of the FBI, Scott Paper, and the Mormon Church, proposes a four–person, collaborative office of the CIO that merges diversity and expertise to help a company make the best business–technology decisions. "We have crossed the line in which it's [now] impossible that one individual mind can be wrapped around the whole thing-all the technology, running the shop every day, and managing all stakeholders," he says. (For more on this, see 967/ management_ol.htm.)

Few companies have embraced the concept of an office of the CIO, at least by that name. Marc Lewis, North American president of IT–executive recruitment firm Morgan Howard Worldwide, estimates that less than 1% of companies have offices of the CIO. Such offices tend to be highly bureaucratic, he says, slowing down decisions and innovation.

Yet whether or not companies subscribe to the concept, some are divvying up responsibilities so that experts in given areas-whether it be financial, process, or technical-create a team that helps the CIO or another top business–technology executive make strategic decisions based on the most comprehensive, yet focused, information.

Ed Kamins, CIO at electronic–component distributor Avnet Inc., has three people who used to hold de facto CIO roles at the company now report to him in specialty areas, and one former de facto CIO who's now the chief technology officer to enforce adherence to standards. And Daniel Sheehan, CIO of direct marketer Advo Inc., is searching for a director of a new business–process center to help him stay atop the business' all–around needs.

Some newly created positions are the most strategic, influencing all parts of IT and the business, says Lewis, who's assisting Advo in its search for a business–process–center director. The business–process sector is "an area of huge opportunities to run business more efficiently," he says.

Outsourcing may lighten a CIO's burden, says Beverly Lieberman, president of Halbrecht Lieberman Associates, an IT–executive recruitment firm. "The job of the CIO is being disintermediated," she says. "There isn't a need for a classic CIO running a thousand–person IT organization if those jobs have been outsourced." Over time, she says, the CIO job will become more of a CTO, managing vendor relationships and technology portfolios.

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