You Say You Want A CIO Revolution? - InformationWeek
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You Say You Want A CIO Revolution?

Global CIO's Bob Evans recently said it's time for a CIO revolution. But the former CIO of the U.S. Postal Service says different CIOs must pursue different objectives, and offers three role models for CIOs to evaluate.

Bob Evans' recent column, "Welcome To The CIO Revolution: A New IT Manifesto," put forth a number of provocative ideas for how CIOs can transform their organizations. Left unquestioned was the need for every CIO to join the revolution and if so, the role that they should play. Unfortunately, pursuit of many of these objectives, without the proper organizational maturity, can distract from the underlying mission of delivering needed IT resources efficiently, reliably and cost-effectively. And quite frankly, not all CIOs will want to make the transition to these proposed future roles.

To put all of this into perspective, Forrester Research published a survey in 2007 highlighting how CEOs assess their CIOs. While I contend that CEOs, as a whole, define the role inconsistently, they share an expectation that their CIOs will have a positive impact on the business above and beyond keeping systems running properly. Unfortunately, just 28% viewed IT as being a proactive leader in terms of delivering innovation while only 30% said the same thing about process improvement. Needless to say, findings such as these should fuel the desire among CIOs to be more strategic in their impact within the business.

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This is easier said than done as the same survey also found that just 60% of CEOs were satisfied with the overall performance of IT. In other words, for a large number of CIOs, significant work still needs to be done in terms of getting their IT house in order. Even the best CIOs will attest that meeting their organization's technology requirements is an ongoing balancing act, meaning that time to consider bigger-picture pursuits, such as fostering innovation, is often in short supply.

So, while Bob suggests the desire to be measured upon business outcomes, this can only occur when IT metrics -- costs, SLA performance, standardization, IT governance, project completion and so on -- are being consistently met as well. Without this, CIOs lack the foundation, the constituency, and the credibility to enact more strategic changes.

In terms of meeting these demands, CIOs need to ask themselves four key questions to determine their readiness to be a transformer:

- Is IT being run as a cost-center or a value center? Instead of simply measuring adherence to budget, CIOs also need to assess the value they deliver to determine their organization's effectiveness. At the same time, increased efficiency must be pursued relentlessly with processes, standardization, and tools such as zero-based budgeting used to force difficult decisions like turning off systems.

- Is the right functionality and insight being delivered consistently? Among the countless metrics that IT has to measure performance, the perception of end-users is too often overlooked. In reality, determining if IT is supporting and enabling their business needs is something that every CIO should consistently and systematically ask. This insight is fundamental to ensuring that projects, resources and investments are truly aligned with the needs of the organization.

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