CIOs And The Governance Problem

CIOs Have A Lot Of Extra Work That Nobody Ever Sees
CIOs Have A Lot Of Extra Work That Nobody Ever Sees

All too often, an outsider looking in would have the mistaken impression that the life of a CIO was filled with decisions about what high-tech project to undertake next or how to better align the IT department with the rest of the company. The reality is that a great deal of a CIOs time is spent worrying about internal controls – not terribly glamorous, but critical if a CIO wants to keep his / her job.

Just What Is Due Diligence?

Remember Enron? Or Worldcom? These are the guys that you can thank for today’s business environment which includes a lot of relatively new safeguards that require a lot of work to report on (such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002).

Although it’s the CEO who is ultimately on the line to ensure that there is no funny business going on, it’s the CIO who creates the reports that the CEO uses to keep tabs on the firm. If something slips past the CIO, then he/she will be slipping out the door to search for a new job.

However, it’s not just the accounting systems that the CIO is responsible for keep track of. There’s a lot more where that came from.

Just What Is A CIO Responsible For Keeping Track Of?

There are four major areas that any good CIO knows that he/she needs to stay on top of. The problem is that they are each so large that any one of them could turn into a full-time job. Here’s the list:

  1. Outsourcing: you thought that once the outsourcing contract was signed, the CIO’s job was done? The CIO has to determine what work goes to the outsourcer, what stays at home, and how different pieces get stitched together when they are completed.
  2. Information Asset Value: There is no way that a CIO can protect all of the data that streams into a company or that is generated within a company. Instead, what he /she has to do is to come up with a way to prioritize the risk associated with each piece of information and then work very hard to secure the important stuff.
  3. New Technology: There will always be new, better, faster technologies showing up on your doorstep every day. Determining when it makes sense to buy new technology is the role that a CIO was born to play.
  4. Competition: there are two sides to this coin. The first has to do with having the CIO make sure that competitive information flows in, gets processed, and then finds its way to the decision makers who need to know about it. The other side is to make sure that the firm has the information defenses in place to resist and repel any competitor who tries to obtain information that they should not have.

How Can A CIO Ever Be Successful?

In order to be successful, a CIO must first admit that he / she can’t do it all by himself / herself. Having the board of directors and senior management backing IT initiatives is a key part of being successful.

Keep in mind that security needs to be baked in – it can’t be an afterthought. One way to make life easier is to adopt and implement standards – this way you can piggyback on the work that other smart people have done.

Questions For You

What do you think about the job of CIO – is it a good job or is it one that you can never win at? How involved in managing the outsourcing do you think a CIO should be? How do you come up with a value for your information assets? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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Coming Up Next Time

In the end, it all comes down to execution. No, not chopping heads off, but rather how you go about having your IT department perform the tasks that the business needs them to do. How hard could this possibly be…?