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 Salesforce.com 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.