Business Technology: Real-Time CIOs For Real-Time Companies

The CIO's job is changing and being refocused and redirected. The key word there, in case anyone missed it, is change. Maybe the title's about to change as well, ponders Bob Evans.
Microsoft's CIO is Rick Devenuti, a 14-year veteran of the company who started in accounting and later worked in sales, marketing, and then operations before assuming his current position three years ago. But Devenuti is more than "just" the CIO: He's also in charge of global operations, including manufacturing and distribution. So just how is it that a guy who's in charge of technology at one of the world's most technology-intensive companies can find/make/create the time to run global operations, too? How does Devenuti keep this dynamic and fast-changing global organization moving as flawlessly as possible while also running beta versions of Microsoft's new enterprise products in production environments? Where's the clarity of focus, the singularity of mission that we all hear so much about these days?

The secret, Devenuti says, is the future, wherein Microsoft has evolved into a new type of company that has wiped out the distinction between the businesspeople, who are over here, and the IT people, who are over there. Devenuti says he's working toward a time when "the IT people" are so fully woven into the day-to-day business and culture of the lines of business that they're no longer "the IT people," in thought or deed. Instead, they're highly focused businesspeople, but with a special talent for technology.

Further, though very different, evidence of the rapidly evolving role of the CIO and the IT organization comes from this month's issue of Optimize, the sister magazine of InformationWeek. In an article called "The CFO of IT," Optimize reports that as many as 20% of U.S. companies now have such positions in place: a CFO for the IT department (November 2002, p. 66;). As one example, the article says that financial-services firm Washington Mutual recently named longtime financial manager Douglas Wisdorf to become the dedicated CFO for newly appointed CIO Jeremy Gross. "I was looking for someone who knew the ins and outs of Washington Mutual," Gross says. "I also needed someone who understood the culture, someone who would be sensitive to the changes we're making and how to effect that change."

A privatization plan being developed by the Treasury would give private collection agencies either a flat fee or a percentage of the recovered [unpaid federal-tax] money. But the union representing IRS employees says those federal dollars should go to federal employees. "The IRS is an agency of the federal government, and it is their job to access and collect the taxes that are due. . . . If there is money available to hire or pay contractors to do collection work, then the money should be there to provide funding for the IRS."

-- from, Nov. 1

A third perspective comes from Dell Computer, which is taking a decidedly contrarian approach to many of its competitors in its strategy for future growth. While most of those competitors are making enormous investments in R&D--from 6% of revenue at HP and IBM to 16% at Sun--Dell expects to keep its R&D spending at about 1.5% of revenue. In turn, the company is looking to leverage the investments made by its suppliers and also expects major contributions from innovations by its internal IT organization, headed by senior VP and CIO Randy Mott. "It's critical that we continue to build systems that allow our markets to grow as quickly as possible," said Mott in a recent interview with InformationWeek's Paul McDougall (see "Like Their Customers, IT Vendors Scale Back," Sept. 23, p. 121). From further supply-chain enhancements, an area of expertise for Mott since his days as CIO of Wal-Mart, to Web-services projects, Mott's mission is to identify "real efficiencies that drop to the bottom line."

Which direction is the right one? Which seems like the way to take your company? If you'd like to hear more about Mott's ideas and execution, he and Dell president Kevin Rollins will be featured speakers in a few months at the InformationWeek Spring Conference, where the conference theme is Real-Time Business. Please check this site for more information on the conference and to register. We hope to see you there.

Bob Evans
Editor in Chief
[email protected]

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