CIOs In Crisis: Do We Have A Problem Here?

by drjim on February 17, 2010

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What Is It Going To Save The Role Of The CIO?

What Is It Going To Save The Role Of The CIO?

What’s Happening To All Of The CIOs?

You and I both know that a well run IT department is what can make one company more successful than its competitors. That must mean that the IT department is important, and therefore the CIO must also be important, right? If that’s true, then why are some of the really big companies like News Corp, Harrah’s, ConocoPhillips, etc. getting rid of their CIO and then choosing to not replace him / her? What are they thinking?

What’s The Problem Here?

If firms feel comfortable getting rid of their head of IT (the CIO) and not replacing that person, then clearly there must be a crisis here. It sure looks like today’s CIOs have not done a good job of advertising just how valuable they are to the rest of the company’s executive leadership team.

This is pretty easy to understand. However, there’s a problem with this explanation. You would think that all of the upper management positions would be faced with this same challenge of conveying their value to the company. However, it seems like the CIO is the only position that companies feel comfortable leaving either open or in the hands of a less senior member of staff. You can’t say the same for operations, finance, human resources, etc.

What Could We Do To Solve This Problem?

Arthur Langer has been researching this issue and he believes that the problem that IT has is that we’re lacking support. If we worked in accounting, then we’d all be CPAs and everyone would agree on the way that things needed to be done.

IT has no equivalent accreditation system. Langer points out that the field of IT is lacking any sort of professional body that could provide its stamp of approval for how an IT department is run or what goals it chooses to focus on. Although such an organization may be a long way off, in the near term IT at least needs to do a better job of getting the message across to the CIO about IT actually does.

Langer makes a good point when he states that he believes that there is no question that CEOs value what an IT department does. It’s just that what we do is so far removed from what he understands, that CEOs really have no clear idea how to manage their IT resources.

Ultimately, this is what is currently missing: an IT best practices organization that can provide CEOs with this kind of management guidance. Sure we’ve got the ITIL standards, but those are far too detailed. What’s missing is that top-level “here’s how you run an IT department” type of guidance.

What All Of This Means For You

Even though you may not yet be a CIO, you need to start thinking about how you are going to effectively deal with this issue. The last thing that you want to have happen is for you to finally become the CIO only to lose your job because the job itself was seen as being not all that important.

As CIO what you are going to have to do is 1) do a good job of running your IT department, and 2) do a good job of educating your CEO on how to manage his / her IT assets. This means that you’re going to have to do a lot of different tasks: create IT best practices for your company, collect industry research and show it to your CEO, create management guides to instruct your CEO on what you need him / her to do for IT. Congratulations – when you become CIO, you also become a teacher!

Although this may seem like it would take up a lot of your precious CIO time that could be spent forging strategy and harnessing new technology, think again. Teaching your CEO how to manage the CIO and showing how to use IT to make the company more successful just might be the best thing that you’ve ever done – it could even save your job!

Do you think that at your company the CIO is necessary or do you think that someone lower down could do all the same things?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

At the end of the day, an IT department is simply a collection of projects. Some of these projects are short lived (“we’ve got an outage!”) and some are much longer (“let’s install a new ERP solution”). However, it turns out that today’s CIOs have been taking the wrong approach when it comes to scheduling these IT projects and it shows…

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