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IT Leadership // CIO Insights & Innovation
Commentary
2/25/2008
05:58 PM
John Soat
John Soat
Commentary
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The Politics Of IT

How heavy-handed can a new CIO be? Just because an IT organization is in need of change, that doesn't mean those changes can happen easily -- or at all.

How heavy-handed can a new CIO be? Just because an IT organization is in need of change, that doesn't mean those changes can happen easily -- or at all.In response to a blog I posted about CIOs losing their jobs, I received an e-mail from a gentleman who works in IT for a midsize municipality. This gentleman (who prefers to remain anonymous) pointed out that the CIO position in his organization is open -- but not necessarily for a good reason. Here is part of his e-mail:

Over the past two years there have been two CIOs hired, each of whom lasted less than one month. In both cases, it is my understanding that the new CIO was asked to leave by his immediate superior, the CFO, because of disgruntled employees within the IT department. As this municipality has grown and progressed, it has moved away from internal IT expertise and has relied more and more on consultants to implement and enhance major portions of the IT infrastructure. Because of this philosophy, many of the IT personnel have become technologically ignorant, yet continue to pride themselves on their role as liaison between the users and technology. I believe the incoming CIOs saw this as wasteful and had planned to shake things up. Seeing their positions threatened (and being protected as long-time government employees), these IT people complained to the CFO and were able to have the new IT directors removed.

Many of the IT personnel at this organization are hard-working, conscientious individuals, but the politics of IT has become the driving force of day-to-day life. While I would love to see a strong leader come in and turn things around, I doubt there is much that can be done until certain individuals retire.

Does this sound familiar? How often does the internal politics of IT interfere with an organization's ability to grow, change, innovate? Is it difficult for a CIO to enter an IT organization obviously in need of change and make the necessary changes? And what are the biggest obstacles? What advice would you give a CIO contemplating such a career move?

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