What Are CIOs For?


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By Ade McCormack, Digital Strategist

This article is by Featured Blogger Ade McCormack from his Linkedin page.


Whilst there is a lot of confusion in respect of defining ‘digital’, there is clearly a new technology aspect to any definition. As we watch digital move centre stage from a strategy perspective, we are not seeing a CIO/IT department pull through.

Thus many CIOs remain locked in an outer orbit away from the action. Some may notice that the orbit is steadily getting bigger. Eventually the gravitational pull of the boardroom will be too weak, and off into the abyss, or the equivalent, becomes the new ‘LinkedIn current position’ for the bewildered casualty.

Some CIOs see what is happening and are doing all they can to shrink their orbit. Most typically, such CIOs are business leaders first and technologists second, or at least are getting their personal brand act together in this respect. Most CIOs have no aspiration to be business leaders. Perhaps they are too busy? Technology management is not a trivial exercise. Or their comfort zone is on the tech side of the help desk. Or it is simply not what they signed up for.

But even they must wonder, as CDOs (Chief Digital Officers), and increasingly CTOs (Chief Technology Officers), arrive on the scene and get involved in the more innovative and interesting aspects of new technology.

If your CIO’s aspirations do not extend beyond technology management, you will need to replace them with an actual CIO; one who understands that the ‘IT’ has always stood for information and not IT. But it is likely that your ‘C IT manager O ‘is a necessity for holding your IT infrastructure together.

My suggestion is that you make his number one priority to accelerate his trajectory into the abyss. The sooner he can offload the reactive technology management piece, the sooner he can focus on proactive customer-pleasing information (and collaboration) related services. IT is becoming a commodity, so best to embrace it rather than fight it.

In the digital economy, organisations are either disruptors or being disrupted. If you think you are neither, you are the latter. Similarly CIOs need to actively cannibalise their role in order to increase their influence and impact on what matters to the organisation and its market. This increase will reverse the orbital trend.

The question now becomes, whether the CIO prefers to enter the boardroom, or hover just outside the door. One could argue that the CIO needs to be at the top table, given that every business decision has a technology implication.

I would suggest that everyone in the boardroom needs to be a digital leader. The current push to have more CIOs in the boardroom is a ‘governance hack’ to abdicate the need for CxOs in general to acquire a new set of skills. Whilst I have been a little hard on the CIO, we need to be crystal clear on the shared responsibility everyone in the organisation has in turning technology spend, and trends, into business value.

So whilst CIOs have to reinvent themselves, so do the rest of us.

Tough love.

Originally published on LinkedIn