Q: What do you call a business executive who doesn’t get any respect?
Ok, so the joke is a little bit lame; however, the point is clear: all too often the CIO is a non-player when it comes to whose in charge in the executive suite. He/she will spend their time trying to put out IT fires only to discover that they don’t have a seat at the strategic planning table.
The Digital IQ survey came out awhile ago from Diamond Management and it pretty much confirmed what we all know. Although 80% of the companies surveyed said that IT is strategic to their company, only 33% say that their CIOs are deeply involved in their strategic planning process. Why is this? In short, I believe that the IT department is viewed as being a collection of weirdos and outcasts that do a lot of things that have no bearing on helping the rest of the company to succeed. The CIO, as the leader of the IT department, is seen as a weirdo executive by proxy and since nobody really understands what he/she does, they don’t invite the CIO to the strategy planning party.
So what do CIOs spend their time doing? The gut answer would be playing solitaire and shopping on eBay; however, I’m hoping that is incorrect. The survey says that CIO spend less than 10% of their time managing IT operations. Since CIOs aren’t spending their time dealing with strategic issues, they end up spending it on tactical issues and then justifying their tactics. What a waste!
One of the reasons that the CIO is in such a bad situation is because the survey reports that in only about 66% of the companys did the CEO advocate IT as a strategic asset. Without this support, the IT department has no support at the strategic level of planning.
What is really interesting about this survey is what the financial firms have to say – they get it right. They involve both the CIO and their IT departments in the strategic planning process.Why you ask? It’s simple: financial firms set themselves apart from their competition by the functionality and the quality of their IT tools. They are required to develop these tools themselves in order to stay ahead of the pack.
So where does this leave us? If CIOs want to start mattering to their firms and being invited to participate in the strategic planning part of the business, then they are going to have to change themselves and their departments. They are going to have to remake their department over in the image of the rest of the company. Instead of being viewed as a group of loaners, they need to be seen as a part of the process. The CIO needs to build an IT department that walks, talks, and looks like the rest of the business. Only by doing this will he/she finally be able to fully participate in the business planning process.