Wednesday, July 30, 2008

CIO reporting: a non-issue

In the last one month, there have been a few surveys conducted by a few research companies as well as IT publishing houses attempting to find the CIO priorities for the future, what drives their agenda and does their reporting relationship has any bearing on the outcome. The research primarily focused on US CIOs. I came across these reports and findings courtesy of some IT newsletters and the editorial board of the publication on their visit to the mecca of IT outsourcing (India).

The survey clearly demonstrates the skew in the responses from CIOs based on whether they report to the top honcho (CEO/Chairman/Board) or to another CXO (even within this there were some variations, though not significant). It was amply evident that CIOs reporting to the CEO have priorities better aligned to business outcomes whereas the others were struggling with operational IT issues and continued to remain technology focused.

The meeting of about a dozen odd Indian CIOs with the publishing house editorial team was a big surprise for them. Some way through the presentation/discussion, it was evident that the Indian CIO has climbed the maturity curve quicker driven by the fact that the CIO reporting into anyone apart from the CEO is almost unheard of (yes, there are exceptions). Turning the US CIOs priorities almost upside down, it was an eye opener for the guests that a show of hands on who the audience reported to, it was a unanimous CEO/Board.

What is the underlying message to the Global CEOs ? If you believe that you do not have the time, energy, or disposition towards spending time with the CIO or managing his/her portfolio, then IT will deliver exactly what you deserve. Innovation will rarely be seen and the IT organizations will continue to suffer, thereby not providing the competitive advantage or even sustained advantage that IT can deliver. Yes, there are exceptions even in the US, but that's what they are even in todays hyper competitive age with slowdown written all over.

The key message to CEOs and CIOs is to stop looking at IT as just a technology play, when your business cannot even imagine working without it. Your business deserves a lot more, so do your employees, shareholders and customers.

Concluding on a lighter note, an executive search company recently attempted to interview a few marquee CIOs for a role in a large conglomerate. All of them declined since the position reports to the CFO !