Don't Get Disintermediated Out of a Job

Larry Bonfante, Founder, CIO Bench Coach | 12/5/2012 | 23 comments

Larry Bonfante
We have all heard the horror stories of companies that have eliminated their CIOs, and, worse, that may have even eliminated the CIO position. Fearful CIOs shake their fists in rage at companies like and Amazon and blame airline magazines for what they view as knee-jerk decisions being made by their executives. But there is more to this challenge than meets the eye.

Many IT executives become enamored with technology for technology’s sake. In my mind, the only reason our companies spend millions of dollars on technology and people is to drive business value and get business results, plain and simple. Nobody cares how “cool” technology is if it isn’t making a difference for your business.

Let’s talk about an ineffective CIO named Fred. In Fred’s company, business executives make an “end run” around IT to get things done. This is a step taken out of pragmatism and frustration. The bottom line is that business people need to get things done in a timely and effective manner. They have goals to meet, and they will take whatever step is necessary to accomplish them. George’s IT organization is viewed as “The Land of No and Slow.” Things take forever to get done, if indeed they get done at all. In this fast-paced world of business, allowing IT to be a bottleneck to success is simply not an option for George’s executives.

Capabilities like software-as-a-service and cloud computing should not be the enemy of the CIO, but rather additional arrows in his quiver. The difference is whether the CIO is viewed as a business partner and a trusted advisor or as the “cable guy”. Let’s look at an analogy.

Let’s say that most people purchase a new car every five years or so. Most car dealerships sell a new car every five hours or so. Who do you think has the advantage in this transaction? However, let’s say I have a close friend named Wilma. Wilma is someone I trust; she has worked in the automotive industry for 20 years. Wouldn’t it make sense for me to consult with Wilma and leverage her experience and expertise when purchasing a new car?

Effective CIOs are like Wilma -- a trusted partner whose experience and expertise is valued and leveraged when making technology decisions. Many CIOs are viewed instead like Fred, a human roadblock who simply slows down the wheels of progress. When you look in the mirror, who do you see looking back at you: Fred or Wilma? What are you doing to make your clients’ lives better and easier? How is IT helping to drive top-line revenue? How are you helping to drive bottom-line efficiencies? Are you investing your limited human and financial resources in doing things to help the priorities of your board and executive leadership, or are you upgrading hardware and software?

I’d love to hear both positive and negative examples of organizations you’ve seen or have been a part of that either “get it” or have a CIO who's at risk because of how he or she is perceived. Let’s keep the dialogue going. Comment below.

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soozyg   Don't Get Disintermediated Out of a Job   12/20/2012 4:59:50 PM
Re: Be Wilma, beware of Fred
@susan, yes to the t-shirt line! we've certainly come up with a lot of catch phrases and words to live/work by on here!
Susan Nunziata   Don't Get Disintermediated Out of a Job   12/18/2012 11:04:43 PM
Re: Be Wilma, beware of Fred
@Soozyg: Ah, well said. If we can get the rights, I'm thinking it's time for a line of t-shirts! in all seriousness, though, I hear alot about difficulty organizations have recruiting and retaining top talent. Giving employees the tech they want, and supporting them, is one way to keep them engaged. 
SaneIT   Don't Get Disintermediated Out of a Job   12/13/2012 8:03:21 AM
Re: Don't Get Disintermediated Out of a Job
That's not always easy to do but I believe that if a company is unhappy in general with their IT department then the CIO needs to sit down and hash these types of things out with senior management.  Ignoring the issues and just making changes for the sake of changes will just lead to a new and improved IT department that the company doesn't like.
soozyg   Don't Get Disintermediated Out of a Job   12/12/2012 1:46:49 PM
Re: Don't Get Disintermediated Out of a Job
If a company's IT department doesn't feel flexible, maybe the first step should be looking at corporate expectations rather than pointing fingers.

Really good point. If IT is stretched too thin, maybe a bigger fix is needed. Maybe adjust corporate expectations and do something to really improve the overall IT department picture.
soozyg   Don't Get Disintermediated Out of a Job   12/12/2012 1:37:37 PM
Re: Be Wilma, beware of Fred
What Susan said! Pebbles is a we learned during one of the radio programs here, if you company is "The Land of No and Slow" in IT, Pebbles may not take a job with your company, she'll look somewhere else.....
tinym   Don't Get Disintermediated Out of a Job   12/12/2012 12:10:22 AM
Re: Don't Get Disintermediated Out of a Job
@VNewman I wouldn't have thought migrating all the little personalizations could take so much time. Now I know! I've never worked at a firm that even bothered to migrate these things.
SaneIT   Don't Get Disintermediated Out of a Job   12/10/2012 7:57:59 AM
Re: Don't Get Disintermediated Out of a Job
@vnewman, agreed the CIO should be having those talks to set expectations but those agreed upon standards need to trickle down as well.  I've taken over IT departments where they are the scapegoat for every problem anyone in the company has ever had so I feel your pain.  There have been a few times where I was pressed to fix years of neglect and when asked if it was possible I always use the same line with enough money and time everything is possible.  That usually puts things in perspective, they realize that if they the latest technology and if they want changes in the support structure that they have to start investing in IT rather than tolerating it.
Technocrat   Don't Get Disintermediated Out of a Job   12/9/2012 6:42:53 PM
Re: Don't Get Disintermediated Out of a Job
" Nepotism and cozy relationships go a long way towards finding that balance."


@Rich      Indeed.  Most would be very surprised to learn how their boss became their boss.
Technocrat   Don't Get Disintermediated Out of a Job   12/9/2012 6:39:16 PM
First Impressions of a CIO
I find it interesting to consider how the CIO is perceived.  I have seen both types, the one who gets it done and the other that seems more symbolic than anything else.  But it is very true that with SaaS and all of the options available to even the casual user, CIO and tech professionals in general cannot afford to barriers to progress.

Isn't preception 9/10 th of the Law or something like that ? 
vnewman   Don't Get Disintermediated Out of a Job   12/9/2012 4:55:38 PM
Re: Don't Get Disintermediated Out of a Job
@Rich - doesn't surprise me.  I think the CIO needs to find a way in instances like this to maintain a balance between what's going to help an individual do their job more efficiently and what will help the firm operate more efficiently as a whole.  
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