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CIOs Uncensored: It's A Great Time To Be A CIO

Technology-based innovation has never been easier or cheaper.
I hear this over and over--that the CIO job has never been tougher. The business landscape has never been more complex and the competitive playing field never so ferocious. OK, I might admit to these last two points. But I don't support the first. There has never been a better time to be a CIO than right now.

The CIO's objective is to create shareholder (or stakeholder) wealth by enabling business change through innovative use of IT. CIOs use their knowledge and skills in creating value through motivation and management of technical specialists to deliver technology-enabled business capability.

It has never been easier to deliver value through IT. Twenty-five years ago, adding a new function to a system would have taken a couple of weeks. The system would be running on an IBM mainframe, and we would spend a half day developing specs for an online screen, one week writing code, two days testing, another two debugging, and a final day moving the new code to production. With .Net, J2EE, and similar technologies, this can be done in a day. We have faster turnaround for user feedback and more time for creative thinking and innovation. It's fabulous!

We have far more technology choices today. Circa 1980, you needed half a million dollars for a decent minicomputer for serious software development. The domain for IT creativity was limited to large companies and academic institutions. Today, $500 and an Internet connection will get you a powerful computer with access to an unlimited choice of software. As result, we see a huge increase in creativity applied to pure technologies and, more important, to business models. Sales strategies, distribution channels, advertising and merchandising models, and human resource support are all improving through technology-enabled change.

Innovative technologies come at us at a wonderfully quick pace, with new ideas cropping up continually. The latest object of my technology affection is called a Spot Personal Tracker. It's a small, lightweight personal satellite tracking device that lets field workers notify a central site if they need help, no matter where they are in the country. The cost of the unit is $150. What a fabulous invention--not only useful in our business, but enhances the safety and well-being of our staff.

More choice means more options, faster solutions, and quicker turnaround, leaving more time for the trial and error of competitive ideas. This is where we refine system design interactively with our business partners to craft more creative system solutions. Today's technologies get us to this stage faster and let us spend more time turning on the idea light bulbs.

Sure, more executives today may think they're experts in IT, since they have many more opportunities to touch and feel IT. Some might even venture to suggest they know more than you do. But really, does that make the job tougher? Only if you let it. IT-savvy executives are more easily convinced that IT can make a strategic difference. Take advantage of their "insights." Get them on your team.

You become what you believe. If you continue to believe your job has never been tougher, then it won't get any easier. Don't buy in to the caterwauling. It's a great time to be a CIO!

Michael Cuddy is VP and CIO of Toromont Industries. Share your thoughts at our blog, CIOs Uncensored, or contact John Soat at [email protected].

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