Tomorrow's CIO: Process Before Technology - InformationWeek

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IT Leadership // CIO Insights & Innovation
Commentary
6/11/2008
01:56 PM
John Soat
John Soat
Commentary
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Tomorrow's CIO: Process Before Technology

Which comes first: process improvement or technology implementation? If you answered the former, congratulations, you are well on your way to being Tomorrow's CIO. If you answered the latter, well, good luck with that patch-management project because that's what you're going to be doing for a long time to come.

Which comes first: process improvement or technology implementation? If you answered the former, congratulations, you are well on your way to being Tomorrow's CIO. If you answered the latter, well, good luck with that patch-management project because that's what you're going to be doing for a long time to come.In researching our upcoming "Tomorrow's CIO" feature story and analytics report, one thing has become clear from the discussions I've had with CIOs and other technology and corporate execs: CIOs need to comprehend the business processes within their organizations, and figure out how to improve those processes, before they apply any new technology.

CIOs must specialize in "understanding what other units do," says Stephen Pickett, past president of the Society for Information Management and current chairman of the SIM Foundation. CIOs must make sure that their IT organizations aren't "just being a service provider to those entities but contributing to their success," says Pickett, who's also VP and CIO of Penske Corp.

One of the things a CIO needs to know, Pickett says, is "how to fix a process that's broken." A good CIO, he says, can analyze an inefficient sales process, for instance, "and make suggestions to salespeople about how to fix it." And CIOs must do that analysis, and make those recommendations, "before they can apply technology to that process."

Ed Kamins exemplifies that process-oriented mentality and approach. He is the chief operational excellence officer for technology distributor Avnet, a position he says may well be the future of the CIO role. "I'm really the chief process officer," he says.

His position, which he took on four years ago when he was still Avnet's CIO, then moved to full time a year later, was the result of "the realization [that] if you automate a bad process, you get a faster bad process that digs a hole and wastes money faster," he says. It's a lesson well learned by forward-thinking CIOs looking to make a significant contribution to their organizations' competitiveness and business growth.

Kamins' best piece of advice for CIOs: "Before process automation, process improvement."

Easier said than done? You tell me. How involved are you in process improvement in your organizations?

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