Welcome to the CIO Nation! - InformationWeek
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Brian Gillooly
Brian Gillooly
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Welcome to the CIO Nation!

Welcome to CIO Nation, the motherland for the leaders of the free world (of technology). This is a blog of the CIOs, by the CIOs, and for the CIOs, and in it, dear citizens, you?ll get nothing but inside info on what your colleagues and peers are doing to address the challenges and opportunities affecting your role...

Welcome to CIO Nation, the motherland for the leaders of the free world (of technology). This is a blog of the CIOs, by the CIOs, and for the CIOs, and in it, dear citizens, you?ll get nothing but inside info on what your colleagues and peers are doing to address the challenges and opportunities affecting your role......Many of you already know how fascinating I find the CIO Nation and how much time I spend in it. I believe there?s no more interesting or pivotal a position in business ? and that includes the CEO. Because of the time I spend in dialogue with CIOs (and those who influence CIOs), I?ve been fortunate to have gained a perspective that I?m confident you?ll find valuable in this blog. So, I?ll share interesting business-innovation ideas from your fellow CIOs, as well as my own insights, and I invite you to build on the dialogue with your own advice for your peers.

So let?s get started, and I couldn?t have been handed a better topic to kick things off than the growing debate in the industry over the relevance of the CIO. I'm baffled by the growing list of sources -- blogs, news snippets, vendor press releases, and even water-cooler discussions at my own company -- regarding this supposed increasing discontent with CIOs and the job they're doing. Or, worse, the suggestion that there?s been outright failure on the part of IT over the past few years. This specious "new trend" seems to have been borne from a report Forrester released in February titled "Closing the CEO-CIO Gap" that stated "CEOs have low expectations of IT." "Pundits" hungry for something controversial to blog about jumped all over that one line from the Forrester report (actually it was part of a summary), and now it's taken on a life of its own, much like the Nick Carr article had everyone talking about how IT "doesn't matter" a few years ago.

There were portions of Carr's article then that made sense -- some elements of IT have become commoditized -- but we eventually got over our hysteria that somehow IT was going to be subsumed into the organization to such an extent that it would, say, magically be managed by gremlins behind a wall. The same kind of bandwagonning is happening here. The Forrester report's primary focus is that "most CEO's think positively about IT," and that "CEOs are generally happy with IT's performance." But some folks latched onto the "CEOs have low expectations of IT" comment and missed one very crucial >fact< in the report: The low expectations by some CEOs for IT is based on the fact that the CEOs simply aren't >educated< enough about IT to understand a) how important a function it is, and b) that IT's performance and the ROI on projects generally is trending upward, according to numerous articles that we've published in Optimize.

Understand, I'm not blindly championing the CIO here the way some other publications or institutions do. In fact, we've published plenty of articles that challenge the CIO to be more effective, or to communicate better with their CEOs and line of business counterparts. If we didn't, we wouldn't be helping prepare CIOs for those very challenges they face every day and instead be setting them up for failure by sugar-coating the world for them. In fact, in December 2004, more than two years ago, we published an article in Optimize called "Bridging the CEO-CIO Disconnect" (eerily similar to the title of the February 2007 Forrester report). That article was written by three A.T. Kearney analysts and was based on their report of a survey conducted for them by Harris Interactive. In that article, the authors say: "[the report] suggests that senior business executives don't believe IT is keeping pace." But in December 2004, while people certainly learned from the article?s concept that IT had to keep pace with the business, the industry didn't overhype the concept.

Fast forward to December 2006 and Optimize's "CIO Effectiveness in 2007" issue, based on a comprehensive research report in which we surveyed more than 400 CIOs, CXOs, IT managers, and LOB managers about the role and effectiveness of the CIO. That research underscores a striking alignment between the CIO and CXOs (including CEOs). The disconnect comes between the CIO and LOB managers, and the primary reason is (ta-daaa) a lack of education/knowledge among LOB managers about the effectiveness of CIOs. So the need for CIOs to be more effective communicators still remains, but it's shifted to the lines of business. And that makes sense. The alignment of business and IT has already taken place at the upper levels of the organization, but we're still in the earlier stages of alignment at the LOB level. Is there still more work to be done by CIOs to boost the ROI of IT? Of course. Do they still need to squeeze more efficiency while also boosting productivity? You bet. But are CIOs and IT ineffective? Are low expectations of IT among any CEOs based on the actual performance of CIOs or IT? Is there something inherently wrong with CIOs or IT? The answers to each of those three questions is an emphatic "no," and anyone perpetuating the misguided concept that there's something wrong with this picture doesn't know CIOs like I do, hasn't dug into the facts like I have, and is simply jumping onto the bandwagon of a fast and easy controversial topic.

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