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Re-thinking: CIO Role in a 21st Century Corporation

May 22, 2010

There has been lot of discussions about the role of CIO in 21st century enterprises. While some pundits strongly argue and make their predictions on slowly diminishing role of CIOs – some strongly believe that CIOs should play a strategic role in shaping and preparing the enterprises for 21st century.

Peter Drucker wrote many books and papers about the role of information in building sustainable and competitive organizations. Even after a decade of such prediction, role of information is getting ever more important than before. Peter Drucker wrote,

“Increasingly, a winning strategy will require information about events and conditions outside the institution: non-customers, technologies other than those currently used by the company and its present competitors, markets not currently served, and so on. Only with this information can a business decide how to allocate its knowledge resources in order to produce the highest yield. Only with such information can a business also prepare for new changes and challenges arising from sudden shifts in the world economy and in the nature and content of knowledge itself. The development of rigorous methods for gathering and analyzing outside information will increasingly become a major challenge for businesses and for information experts.”

Technology is becoming integral part of the business. In 21st century, CIOs and their teams need to play a much broader and expanded business role sharing leadership of technology with business peers as well as acquiring responsibility for many of the firm’s shared services. CIO also need to find an inspired ways to recruit and retain the best and the brightest new talent who will be eager to solve problems and who speak the language of populist technologies as a first language. CIO who can’t see them playing this role should begin now to change the profile of themselves and their teams or see their role ever more marginalized.

One of the major issues I have seen last 10 years working in various management roles, technology teams lacks the necessary business knowledge and ability to map the great technology to business opportunities. To build a successful bridge between the technology and the business, CIOs have to play a significant role in boosting the business knowledge of their teams. It is time to transform a tech-oriented staff into one that has the requisite business skills, including negotiation, strategy, or financial analysis. These are very essential skills required to align the business and IT.

CIO’s need to play a bigger role in strategy execution rather than focusing more of their time on technology selection and operations. I have seen so much of friction between technology and operations. CIOs focus lot of their time and energy trying to align the technology and business. In my view, first thing that CIOs should report to CEO. CIO should play a bigger role in helping CEOs with necessary tools and frameworks to integrate critical information flows from the Information Systems to Business Systems and vice-versa. Also, CIO should focus more on forming networks of supply partners, tapping them for new ideas, engaging them to broker cross-industry lessons learned, and with them, establishing a responsive ecosystem of providers.

Paul Saffo summarized the state of machines, complexity of tools, and exploding information in his HBR article, “Are You Machine Wise?”

“As our tools become ever more complex and interconnected and more central to the conduct of business, their benefits also become harder to recognize. Furthermore, executives need to know and understand the logic of the work done by machines—and, above all else, the limits beyond which those tools cannot be pushed. Meanwhile, the volume of information continues to expand exponentially, generated by machines conversing with other machines on our behalf. Every business activity leaves behind a wake of information, from data spinning off production-line process controllers to transaction records generated over retail-credit-card networks. And the growing centrality of the Internet for business purposes will only add to the flood.”

Finally, CIOs need to think technology from the business perspective to help CEOs position the company for competitiveness — their firms’ differentiation of products, services, and business models. Technology itself is not a differentiator unless it align with the business. So, CIOs need to think differently – just technology perspective is not enough and they need to start creating value for the businesses. I think CIOs can play a very influential role in bridging the customers, suppliers, partners, and innovation channels by aligning technology from business perspective.

What do you think?

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 8, 2016 10:41 pm

    I looked through all these photos on Flickr earlier today. . . Click

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