The Future CIO

What does it takes to survive and even succeed as a CIO today? Spurred in large part by the business implications and opportunities of IT, the CIO job has become much more complex and business critical than ever.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

October 13, 2004

4 Min Read

The program was pilot tested this year with tremendous success. It began in May with the assessment process and will continue until November. Participants have commented that the quality of the instruction and the materials are extremely high, and the peers they're meeting are those who will clearly be key leaders in the IT field in the near future. Many of our participants already are division or geographical-area CIOs.

Simplify the operating environment, governance, work processes, and task priorities that form the context for IT work.

The first step in simplification is to establish a standard business and technology architecture and use it as the basis for all IT technology decisions and vendor selections.

Move toward a simpler organizational structure for IT, centralizing infrastructure responsibilities and decentralizing application development and implementation responsibilities wherever possible.

Be very clear about your own organizational situation and the business requirements that must be satisfied. Establish an explicit short list of goals and stick to it.

Focus your time and energy outside the functional IT organization. Spend as much time as possible with external customers or suppliers (choose them based on strategic importance). We recommend at least 20% of your time, or one day a week, on average.

If your internal staff isn't strong enough for you to delegate most of your operational responsibilities, then devote a reasonable amount of time to strengthening the IT organization. (For most organizations this must be accomplished in six to nine months.) As the organization matures, shift your emphasis to spending more time with business clients and external customers.

As CIO, think of yourself as the CEO of an IT products and services company, regardless of whether you have a large staff or have outsourced all of your operations. Focus your time and attention on strategic issues, on external relationships, and on the future.

To accomplish this strategic leadership role, think of yourself as a storyteller and an entrepreneur, not as a controller. Adopt a marketing mind-set and introduce marketing processes into the IT organization to complement (not replace) the engineering disciplines that currently characterize the IT profession.

Establish clear, explicit goals for shortening IT decision and development cycles. Focus the entire IT organization on accelerating all of its core business processes.

Find the right balance for you personally, and for your organization, between fostering organizational change and exploiting the potential of IT, on the one hand, and ensuring the discipline to produce highly reliable, bulletproof systems and infrastructure, on the other.

Manage your own time and personal agenda carefully-and explicitly. Be sure to reserve enough time for reflection, learning, and peer-to-peer networking. Adapt your leadership style to match the needs of your organization, combining collaborative problem solving with task-focused direction setting to produce a cohesive, committed organization.

Dr. James I. Cash recently completed a 27-year career as a professor and senior associate dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration. He's a member of InformationWeek's Editorial Advisory Board. Dr. Keri E. Pearlson is a research director with the Concours Group. Numerous graduate programs use her book, "Managing And Using Information Systems: A Strategic Approach," to train future IT leaders.

Illustration by Dan Brown

Continue to the sidebars:
"Developing CIOs For The Future" and
"The Future CIO: Key Recommendations"

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