The Wall Street Journal's 10-Year-Old Advice For CIOs - InformationWeek

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IT Leadership // CIO Insights & Innovation
Commentary
10/31/2007
06:16 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
Commentary
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The Wall Street Journal's 10-Year-Old Advice For CIOs

General Motors CIO Ralph Szygenda has a terrific track record, and he and his work were profiled yesterday in the Journal. But the Journal really laid an egg with the GM/Szygenda piece by presenting a circa 1996 snapshot of the CIO position and the role of business technology. So if you recognize yourself in the image of the CIO presented by the Journal story, be afraid --

General Motors CIO Ralph Szygenda has a terrific track record, and he and his work were profiled yesterday in the Journal. But the Journal really laid an egg with the GM/Szygenda piece by presenting a circa 1996 snapshot of the CIO position and the role of business technology. So if you recognize yourself in the image of the CIO presented by the Journal story, be afraid -- be very afraid.Here are some examples:

--"For Mr. Szygenda, this has meant heavy cost cuts in his information-technology department." (He started doing this 10 years ago.)

--"The challenge for Mr. Szygenda isn't just to cut IT costs, but to use tech to reduce the time and money it takes to design, build, and deliver [products]." (If you haven't been leading this charge for the past few years at least, better check in with your favorite headhunter.)

--Ford and Chrysler "have gone through several CIOs, largely because their IT departments are primarily back-office cost centers, says Thilo Koslowski, an analyst at Gartner Group." (Are you a back-office cost center? If so, you're irrelevant.)

--"IT projects often take more time and money than anticipated, which means the CIO doesn't have much credibility when asking for funding for new projects." (That was certainly true 10 years ago, and partly true 5 years ago -- but if that's still the case with you and your team today, the pink slip is on its way.)

--And here's a gem from the story attributed to Jerry Luftman of Stevens Institute of Technology: "Too often, CIOs focus on tech rather than business problems ... the job is a business executive job, not a tech job." (Szygenda said this 10 years ago -- if it's news to you today, well, good luck.)

--Finally, stop the presses for this brainbuster: "Despite these efforts, "the IT department can't save an automotive company," says Gartner's Mr. Koslowski. "But it can accelerate the efforts." (Hey, thanks, Gartner -- if that sort of insight isn't worth a $250,000 service contract, I don't know what is.) Maybe the Journal wrote this piece as a sanity-check for CIOs. Because other than highlighting some of the terrific accomplishments at GM of Ralph Szygenda, this article does little more than paint a picture of antiquated and irrelevant ideas -- so be very afraid if you found this article timely and insightful.

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