CIO’s in today’s economy have a challenging role and differing expectations. It is not uncommon to expect with the downturn in the economy, that CIOs would be challenged to do more with less. IT executives are focusing on ensuring that business is conducted efficiently to get more mileage out of their budgets.
In the 2009 Society for Information Management [SIM] survey, priorities have changed and the number one priority is now ‘’Business productivity and cost reduction’.  This survey went on to note that the top application and technology priority is business intelligence (most of us in the industry could see this coming since it has been at the top of the list for the last couple of years). It was followed by server virtualization, enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, customer/corporate portals, enterprise application integration/management (EAI/EAM), and continuity planning / disaster recovery.
For those of you who did not catch the list, the top 10 CIO concerns are as follows:

  1. Business productivity and cost reduction 
  2. IT and business alignment 
  3. Business agility and speed to market 
  4. Business process re-engineering 
  5. IT cost reduction 
  6. IT reliability and efficiency 
  7. IT strategic planning 
  8. Revenue generating IT innovations 
  9. Security and privacy 
  10. CIO leadership role

This author believes that the reason BI is and has been at the top of the list is because we in IT have lost sight of the goal of the information age – to provide a stable, secure, and reliable source of trusted information. Not an easy task with today’s spaghetti diagrams that show information scattered amongst the proliferation of enterprise applications and data warehouses.  Business users need to trust their information sources and if you as a CIO do not provide this, you are not a success.
About half of the CIO’s report to the CEO – this was supported in the SIM publication along with a Stuart Spencer white paper on CIO 2.0[2].  This is good news, since we CIO’s have elevated to the need of business innovator and being in the age of technology, this is almost a requirement.  This article went on to note that ‘As their roles have increased in complexity and visibility, chief information officers have evolved from pure technologists to key business strategists…’
Increasingly, corporate-wide project and risk management, security efforts along with business transformation projects are often directed by IT.  Bear in mind that IT assets can today account for a good portion of overall capital spending at some companies, and many CIO’s direct global contracts larger than some business units budgets. Keep the business enabled, transform them and expect them to enjoy the ride – this is a recipe for a very challenging role with widely differing expectations.
CIO’s have to be first leaders and second technologists.  I predicate this with the thought that I am a hands-on technologist and feel that to lead a group of technologists requires an understanding of their state. Microsoft’s CIO Tony Scott noted: ‘The CIO of the future is one who has deeper technical skills and broader business experience and can combine the two to deliver a management response to the company’s issues’.  This statement is a mouthful and hits to the point – you cannot innovate nor automate that which you do not understand (business and technology included).
Second, CIO’s must manage the expectations of the business.  This is a key attribute to successful executives in that many have succeeded in delivery only to be seen as a hindrance to business leaders.   Managing expectations means first establishing expectations (the best way I have found is to create a blueprint or roadmap and gain consensus on this) and then delivering on these with transparency and constant communications.
Third, I believe CIO’s have to implement technology governance, an area that we have been generally lacking in.  Governance of systems, data and infrastructure is a key to effective and efficient implementations that can be trusted.
Finally, I believe that the agenda of a successful CIO has to include the following:

  • Create (and sustain) technology strategies, skill sets and platforms
  • Facilitate the flawless and timely implementation of IT policies, standards, providers and systems
  • Align the needs of your customers with technology utilizing Architecture 
  • Differentiate your information technology by creating an approach that supports bringing a business point of view to technology decisions
  • Gain an understanding of the organizations business plans and identify opportunities for improvement through innovative use of technology and data
  • Constantly Hone your technology, leadership, organizational, communication, decision-making, and problem solving skills

Yes, ‘Business productivity and cost reduction’ along with ‘IT and business alignment’ are the current hot buttons.  The first is easily understood because of the economic pressures that all businesses face today.  The second is to the point that we as IT leaders have the responsibility (or the challenge of) making technology enable the business.  This means to assist your organization in realizing their business objectives (agile rather than hindered by IT).  We have to partner effectively with, and manage the expectations of the organization to mutual benefit.  For indeed, partnering with the business should be the sole objective of IT, and that means understanding their business model and frustrations.

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