CIOs should think IT and business

CIOs should think IT and business

The role of the chief information officer (CIO) is quickly evolving and requires him or her to think not only as a technical person but also as a businessman, according to a study commissioned by software maker Computer Associates.

The study, conducted by international business school INSEAD' InnovAsia, interviewed 15 CIOs from Singapore, Malaysia, and India.

In a white paper entitled "The Changing Role of the CIO", it was cited that many CIOs in Asia South countries are still "supply-focused" -- meaning, IT departments are still focused primarily on the delivery of IT resources and services to support the business instead of focusing on shaping demand or helping the business innovate through the use of IT.

The study cites that this could be a manifestation of a lack of trust and communication between business and IT, thereby resulting in little support for IT to expand its role.

According to Karl Verhulst, CA's marketing director for Asia South, three years back, the role of CIOs was seen to be shrinking as IT budgets continued to decline and most companies were outsourcing IT.

Because of this, there was a perception that a CIO was less needed since almost everything was being outsourced anyway. Today, however, the CIO position is gaining a stronger position as IT budgets are beginning to grow and people are beginning to see IT as a "competitive differentiator, Verhulst said.

"IT people should, however, become more strategic to keep this momentum," he said, adding that CIOs nowadays need to wear two hats- being both operational and strategic and being both technical and business-savvy.

"CIOs have to think like businessmen, but execution or the operational side still needs to be done properly," he added. "The IT folks should be the ones to make an effort to understand the business because CEOs and CFOs don't understand technology.

Balancing act

In order to regain strategic value, Verhulst said CIOs must balance both the "supply" and "demand" side.

According to Verhulst, in order to remain "relevant" and "strategic", CIOs need to: manage operational and business risk through compliance, asset protection, and ensuring service continuity; manage cost by optimizing resources and reducing operating expenses to have more leeway for new strategic projects; improve service through service management; and align IT investments with business goals.

"Companies should have an organized IT department; there are technologies that can help you do that and there are best practices available to guide you like CA's ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library)," he said.

ITIL is a described by CA as a framework of best practices for IT service management processes, describing and organizing all IT activities needed to address the provision and support of quality IT services.

Fortunately, the evolution of the role of the CIO is already happening now as CIOs are beginning to think more like businessmen, said Verhulst.

"Once CIOs understand what drives the business, they then become the best people to prioritize needs and identify where technology can be applied as a force multiplier and drive continuous competitive advantage back to the business," he added.

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