Monday, November 18, 2013
For the CIO, IT is (not) enough ?
CIOs shed your technology garbs and start donning business clothing; variations of this message have been bombarding the CIO for some time now. It was a clarion call for some who started working upon it, some nodded their heads and said we have already been on this path, the balance found that they were unable to make the transition either due to their own limitations or their company not willing to accept the new avatar that the CIO wanted to transform self into. A decade later the crescendo has only increased.
What next after you have been a successful CIO ? Move laterally into a business role, take on additional responsibilities, don’t you aspire to be a CEO ? Is IT not a business role asked a few ? The CIOs up/cross-skilled themselves into understanding business as well or better than the business; this was the new peak to climb. So once again some raised the bar and took on new roles, added new functions, managed P&L for parts of the business, and few took plunge into entrepreneurship; a smattering made it to the corner office too.
SMACS or variations of this theme create the next scare; the Chief Digital Officer threatens to take away a chunk of the CIOs span of control. Social is willy-nilly intertwined into the enterprise fabric now and there are more mobile internet users in many markets. Big Data and Analytics threaten to disrupt existing business paradigms while Cloud has thrust BYOD and consumerization into another orbit. With all this comes the scare of individual privacy, leave aside the corporate security policy which has been struggling to keep pace.
CIOs should know legalese as well as number crunching in equal measure. After all they sign many contracts with service providers and vendors; they also manage and run the IT budget which is significant. Charge backs to business are being discussed actively which raises many challenges on the financial models. CIOs also need HR skills to hire and retain good talent within their teams. So the CIO is now a CLO, CFO and CHRO all rolled into one just to run the IT organization effectively. Not that other CXOs have it easy, but for the CIO these are more discussed than others.
While the CIO battles all of this, somewhere the CMO is expected to sidestep the CIO while sourcing services and solutions on the Cloud; the hypothesis, the CIO is too busy doing something else (what?) and is ignoring the CMO ! So the question that keeps raising its head is whether IT as a domain is not good enough for the CIO to succeed ? Is cross-functional knowledge essential to maintain the position or nice to have skills ? And if the CIO is indeed expected to be a Jack of all trades and Master of some, how does s/he keep hitting a moving target ?
Ask any consultant or for that matter any Tom, Dick and Harry about the future of the CIO; they will for sure have a view on why the CIO is going to die sooner than later. Everything as a service, outsourcing and savvier employees will challenge the role of the CIO as it exists today. CIOs have presumably resisted mobility, BYOD, and every new technology that actually made their lives easier. Are CIOs really so dumb and resistant to change ? And if they indeed are, why is it that when asked, no one can give names of a few specimens ?
A long time back someone had asked me the question: now that you have been a CIO across multiple companies and industries successfully creating transformation, what next ? At that time my answer was “What’s wrong with being a good and successful CIO ?” People don’t want to accept the fact that being a CIO can also be a fulfilling and satisfying career; you don’t get there so easily anyway and stay in that position. There will always be few who will continue their quest towards new shores, and there are ones who just enjoy the journey.