Does IHOP Have Tasty Lessons To Serve Up For IT?

by drjim on February 2, 2009

IHOP's CIO Has Some Lessons For All CIOs Who Want A Seat At The Table

IHOP’s CIO Has Some Lessons For All CIOs Who Want A Seat At The Table

I don’t know about you, but I’m always open to having breakfast no matter what time of day it is. This might explain why so much of my life has been spent sitting in IHOP restaurants eating mountains of pancakes. When I stumbled across an interview with IHOP’s CIO in eWeek magazine, I was of course interested…

Patrick Piccininno became IHOP’s CIO way back in 2003. He’s got some interesting thoughts on what it takes to get and keep a CIO as a part of a company’s strategy team. Piccininno agrees that just to get the CIO a seat at the table has been a long fought battle.

He believes that in order for a CIO to keep his/her seat at the table, they need to make sure that they are not a wallflower – they actually have to be participating members in planning the corporate strategy and they need to be willing to work with the CEO and the other members of the executive team.

Here’s the key take-away for all of us IT lovers: Piccininno states that in his experience, a CIO needs to take off his/her technology hat and instead put on their business hat. When working with other members of the executive team it’s critital the that CIO focus on those transformational initiatives that will help the company to achieve its business results.

Piccininno believes that what the rest of the company really wants from the IT department is to simply believe that they are in good hands – that the IT infrastructure will support whatever needs to be done to grow the business.

I think that we’ve all heard this kind of talk before, but it can be very difficult to understand exactly how to put it into effect in the real world. Piccininno offered an example that provided a good case study.

Back in July of 2007, IHOP announced that it was going to buy the Applebee’s restaurant chain. This was a big deal – it was valued at about US$2.1B. As Piccininno points out, a key part of the decision to go ahead and buy Applebee’s rested on the ability of the IHOP IT department to be able to successfully integrate two sets of disparate systems and environments quickly in order to reduce costs.

In order for IHOP’s IT department to be able to support this large scale merger, they needed to have made and implemented key IT infrastructure decisions a long time ago. Because they had made these decisions, the CIO was able to play his role in supporting the company’s strategy for purchasing Applebee’s.

The business world that we all find ourselves living in these days sure seems to have become more complex. We’ve got new regulations to live with including Sarbanes-Oxley and General Computing Controls. What all of this means to a business is that IT is now up in front and center of how the business is run. Without including IT in the planning of the company’s future direction, there is a great chance that the rest of the company won’t be able to find their way…

Do you feel that IT has a “seat at the table” at your firm? Does your CIO have the ability to talk tech with the IT staff and then turn around and talk business with the rest of the firm? Do you feel that your IT department does a good job of supporting the rest of the firm or are you constantly holding them back? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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