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10/2/2014
08:36 AM
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The New CIO: C Stands For Change

What does the CIO role look like now, and what will it look like in the future? Experts at Interop New York share the key skills and traits that will soon separate the winners from the losers.

audience, "In the past, it's been OK to be the nerds that knew stuff. We have to get better at explaining our ideas."

If CIOs don't get better at explaining ideas and getting intimately involved with business projects and innovation in the way that Wright has, users and business teams will simply walk on by.

It's happening already, as Michael Healey, president of Yeoman Technologies, explained, telling the story of a project that he consulted on, when a retail company's marketing group developed a customer app and it failed spectacularly. The IT group was asked to help at the start of the project and declined. When the app failed, the project landed back in IT's lap to repair and then replace.  

If you're not invited to work on customer-facing apps -- or worse, you're declining to work on them -- that's a sign that you are not sitting at the innovation table in your company. And that is a red, flashing warning sign for CIOs.

"An IT organization that doesn't do innovative work is very replaceable," says Asheville's Feldman.

Politics has always been a big part of the CIO role, but the ability to navigate through treacherous politics and deal with strong personalities will be mandatory when a business is moving at agile speed.

That's one reason tomorrow's CIO will need help from IT lieutenants from non-IT backgrounds -- a real change from the days when it was hard for anyone outside of IT to break into the group of rising stars being carefully groomed by the CIO.

Consider the case of Dr. Veronica Daly, another speaker at Tuesday's event. She was an obstetrician for years before her frustration with medical software systems led her to pursue training in medical informatics. Today she is director of medical informatics for Atlantic Health System, reporting to the CIO. The CIO did not go outside to hire an informatics or EHR whiz.

"They hired me because I had the relationships with the medical staff to get things done," Daly says. Daly has to convince nurses and doctors to adopt process changes and innovations on the front lines, for instance, an early warning system for sepsis that the hospital system implemented.

What does change look like in Daly's organization? Think: medical staff wearing Google Glass in an ambulance so that they can give a blood thinner in certain medical situations.

Daly reflects a personality that is genuine, practical, and includes a sense of humor. I find those same traits in many rising IT leaders. Maybe you've met some cold, arrogant CIOs in your day. I think the days are numbered for that CIO personality. I don't see that person leading an Agile effort. I don't see that person embracing a Millennial who has an innovative app idea. I don't see that person creating the kind of IT team that can collaborate with all parts of the business. I don't see that person retaining IT talent in a competitive talent market.

 "IT pros, especially the ones who are going to do aspirational projects, are volunteers," Feldman says. IT pros who lose faith in the CIO will vote with their feet and walk. And that is a huge business liability. 

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Laurianne McLaughlin currently serves as InformationWeek.com's Editor-in-Chief, overseeing daily online editorial operations. Prior to joining InformationWeek in May, 2011, she was managing editor at CIO.com. Her writing and editing work has won multiple ASBPE (American ... View Full Bio
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DDURBIN1
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DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Ninja
10/2/2014 | 10:27:49 AM
Bottom up change is difficult
With the majority of lead IT positions still reporting to the CFO and not the CEO, it's not easy to be a change agent while being kept out of senior management decision making particularly when the CFO's goals are cost containment.   On average more than 70% of the information a business uses to run has no impact on the general ledger making even less sense for IT to report to the CFO as business technology has more cross functional impact on the business than does finance.

Put a bean counter in charge of other business functions such as Sales or Engineering and watch them struggle to be effective as many IT departments do in most organizations where IT reports to Finance although the Finance departments seem to function very well for some strange reason.
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
10/2/2014 | 11:55:08 AM
Re: Bottom up change is difficult
Do you think it's common now for CIOs to report to the CFO? 
DDURBIN1
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DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Ninja
10/2/2014 | 12:05:26 PM
Re: Bottom up change is difficult
Do you think CIO's are common?  Only in the Fortune 50 and not even all of them have one.
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
10/2/2014 | 1:41:02 PM
Re: Bottom up change is difficult
Good points by @ddurbin1. I've heard more and more about CIOs reporting to CFOs, which doesn't make a lot of sense if you really want the CIO to be immersed across business units as an agent of change. Reporting to a CFO would stifle a CIO, no?
DDURBIN1
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DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Ninja
10/2/2014 | 3:31:45 PM
Re: Bottom up change is difficult
I understand this article is about the CIO role but the overwhelming majority of IT lead positions are not CIOs.  For those organizations having a CIO as part of the executive core reporting to the CEO, this article is a mute subject as they really already understand the change aspect of business technologies thus they have a CIO to mentor same.   For the rest of us its an up hill battle just to be let in the business door.
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
10/2/2014 | 4:12:34 PM
Re: Bottom up change is difficult
I see what you're saying -- a person may be doing a CIO's job, but without that title, they have little clout with other business units. That sounds like a situation with no easy or one-size answer.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
10/2/2014 | 6:10:47 PM
Re: Bottom up change is difficult
It is old-school thinking to have the CIO report to the CFO. IT leaders fought this battle in the 90's. If your CIO reports to the CFO that could be a hint that you are not in a company with a digital business mindset doing innovative work. Of course this may vary by vertical industry.

As far as not having a CIO slot at all, it is true some smaller or even midsize companies will have an IT director or a VP-level title person running IT. I hope those people would also find useful advice in this article about how to stand out as an IT leader.

 

 
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
10/6/2014 | 7:44:55 AM
Re: Bottom up change is difficult
You're right that the reporting structure is a bit dated if the CIO or the top level of your IT staff is reporting to the CFO but I think that can be remedied by getting your CFO moving in a more technical direction as well.  I'm at a company that isn't quite big enough for that CIO role and yes I report to the CFO, but it is not the brick wall that I hear other people in similar positions are running in to.  The "consultative" shift is a good way to describe how you can get that relationship moving in the right direction.  The image of the tight fisted CFO who can't see company direction unless it's in ledger form is as outdated as any of the CIO role assumptions that many of us make.  Our CFO understands why I come in with proposed changes and very rarely do I hit a wall.  When I do it's usually a "wait" signal rather than a full stop.  Part of my position is being an agent of change, we are a growing company and we can't do business the same way we did last year or the year before.  If we want to keep up with the growth we have to change and if there is anyone in the company who should understand how quickly things can change and how those changes can affect business processes it should be the CIO or the person filling a similar role.  This means knowing what other people do and why.  I joke that I've shifted from a technical role to a process modeling role over the past year but really it is adjusting processes to mesh with technology changes that are letting us do bigger things.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
10/6/2014 | 8:46:00 AM
Re: Bottom up change is difficult
"Part of my position is being an agent of change": Thanks for sharing your insight, @SaneIT. Good way to put it.
Li Tan
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Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
10/2/2014 | 10:42:39 AM
More opportunities
I think for CIO, there will be more opporunities in the future. Now more and more industries start to adopt advanced technologies such as big-data, cloud, IoT, etc. to boost the productivity and revenue. So CIO has the chance to become a crucial stakeholder in the business instead of just the head of supporting department - the traditional IT. But it depends on how fast CIO can learn and adapt to this fast changing world.
DDURBIN1
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DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Ninja
10/2/2014 | 10:49:53 AM
Re: More opportunities

I find IT people very adaptable; they have to be the way business technology changes.  The people that need to learn and adapt are executive management, boards of directors, and ownership NOT the CIO/IT Lead as business leadership have been the key obstructionists to effective business technology application to the business processes.

zerox203
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zerox203,
User Rank: Ninja
10/15/2014 | 7:30:51 AM
Re: The New CIO
The funny thing is, depending on who you ask, all of this was true five, ten, or even more years ago. Maybe a lot of that has to do with what industry you're in. The idea that IT was tied to directly to business growth (rather than just keeping the lights on) was true for many companies back then - it's just that it's now true for more or less everyone. 'Digital' just means 'how you do business' - period. It's indistinquishable from other parts the business.

All of this can be said for the CIO themselves as well, of course. All it really means is that the CIO now fits into the same size compartment as the CMO or the CFO, so it's really not all that strange. It would be awful weird for someone to say 'we don't really need to bring marketing in on this company-wide project, do we?', wouldn't it? It's more strange that that ever was the case for IT, but you're right that old habits die hard. CIOs already in the hot seat have some unlearning to do, and those coming up should keep a close eye on them to learn from their missteps.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
10/15/2014 | 2:37:45 PM
Re: The New CIO
@zerox203 is right, some CIOs learned long ago to befriend the CMO. But if you're still playing a game of "Survivor" with the CMO, it's time to think again.
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