I wanted to take a moment to discuss two CIO archetypes. I had the occasion to see a panel recently where CIOs from different ends of this scale were sat next to each other to discuss a common topic. Having grown up in application development and worked in Enterprise Architecture I found myself split on how to approach change and investment.

First with my EA hat on. For those who have talked to me about Enterprise Architecture you may have heard me espouse the view that it is frequently focused on efficiency. EA is a great tool for mapping out current state and understanding change. Two of the key outcomes of EA are highlighting gaps in change, infrastructure, applications and the organization as well as highlighting duplication. Duplication obviously yields opportunities for rationalisation and efficiency with what is typically an easy business case to assemble.

As an EA it can be easy to become focused on making investments in IT highly efficient, keeping a simpler applications architecture and making the right large investments in IT.

With my EA hat on I align with the efficiency CIO. Making large, meaningful investments in IT change that has the best promise of return on that investment. The key is to have the big view of change and protect future change from complexity. Here, change is executed selectively, as reliably as possible using the right resources at the best possible cost.

Now with my application developer hat on. Here my interest is in how do create new software and grow software assets to better meet the customers needs. With this hat on I want more change, to create more software to satisfy the many diverse requirements of the customers in the organization. As a software engineer or application developer I see where parts of the organization are starved of simple change, starved of access to skills like mine to continuously improve their position.

Here I observed what I have called here the Agility CIO. The CIO who is the developers champion, who values the ability to create new software and is happy to have the IT landscape grow to assist the business in similarly growing. Why not throw some IT folks, either internal or with partners, at a business problem and create something new? There needs to be adoption of pre-built assets, re-use, re-factoring, replacement – but this is a natural result of engineering and something we trust developers to execute as part of their role. Of course this means having good developers who are well paid, rather than the cheapest resources available. Further, with new software and expensive developers complexity and cost base tends to increase over time as well.

There is a role for both types of CIO, each organization has different priorities whether they’re an insurer, intermediary, vendor, start-up, etc. Further, these priorities change and the CIO needs to balance their approach to change along this continuum. Indeed there will be parts of the organization where the Efficiency CIO is most appropriate in reigning in unproductive change, and other parts facing stiff growth challenges that need an Agility CIO.

Where is your IT organization on this scale? Where should it be? What is a good balance? I’d love to hear your feedback.

Celent is looking to understand how fast is fast, as well as how investment can be protected or future-proofed in a survey live at the moment. We’d be happy to share the results to those who share their views…


This blog has been reprinted with permission from Celent.

Craig Beattie is an analyst in Celent's insurance group, and can be reached at cbeattie@celent.com.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Craig using the “Add Your Comments” box below.