There was an interesting article in an issue of CIO Insight that talked about the changing role of CIOs. The basic point of the story was that since today’s CIOs are spending so much time (and $$$) on keeping their firms systems up and running, that they are losing their position at the strategy table. The thinking is that if a CIO doesn’t have the time to spend on thinking about where the company needs to go and how it’s going to get there, then he/she doesn’t need to take up space at the table where the firm’s long term direction is being decided.
The article went on to point out that CIOs are being relegated to reporting to the CFO. This basically reinforces the view of the IT department as simply being a cost center. Of course there is a plus side to having a good CIO/CFO relationship; however, I think that losing access to the CEO has got to be a bad thing for both the CIO and his IT team.
With the arrival of grid (aka “utility” computing), it sure looks like the CIO who is only in charge of managing existing equipment and systems will soon be no longer needed. That also means that the DBAs and other support personnel may also be at risk. Talk about change happening!
So what’s a CIO (and for that matter an IT department) to do? Clearly what a CIO used to do and may be doing today is not going to cut it going forward. So what is a CIO to do? Well, most CIOs already split their time between operations and strategy. The problem is that too many of them spend their time on the operations issues because that is what they know best — it’s where they come from. Additionally, just like every IT worker out there, CIO fear having their technical skills grow dull. Where CIOs need to be spending their time is on learning where the business is going and then making sure that the IT systems are going to be there to support the firm.
We get back to that issue of alignment, but its even more than that. CIOs need to create a way for the operations side of their job to run on autopilot — no problems, but also not requiring any time. Sounds easy, but it never is.