CIOs and the spirit of change

CIOs and the spirit of change

Change is a constant in organizations today -- and there are many questions to ask about the role the CIO plays in businesses undergoing transformation.

For example: What characteristics should a CIO in such a situation have? Should the CIO be a peacekeeper? Play a role in business-IT relations internally? How should the CIO react to change? Should the CIO initiate change and take part in deciding the pace and direction of change? Should the CIO be conservative when it comes to change? Progressive? In between? Do organizations undergoing change need to have a "chief change officer?"

We asked these questions at the recent Informatics Leader Congress, where we spoke to Andrzej Feterowski, CIO of the City of Szczecin Office, Leader of Informatics 2010 in public administration sector; Tomasz Matuła, Chief of the IT Infrastructure Division in TP; Sławomir Panasiuk, CIO&COO in National Securities Deposit, CIO of the Year for 2009 and Jacek Pulwarski, CIO in the Polish Press Agency.

Feterowski: "In a typical change situation we may observe a tricky competition and organizational gap. There's a strategic sponsor of the project who sometimes forgets about that certain project because he is involved in other strategic tasks. And below [that position] there's project manager, fighting everyday challenges and tasks, taking the rap for failures. There's a lack of a person engaged 100 percent in the issues of change provided by the project/program, engaged in fighting for this change and mediation between those involved in change. Someone who will clean the deck and protect the project, someone who knows corporate politics, [serving as the] change protector, change manager."

Matuła: "In a big enterprise or institution, inspirations for change may arise from many sources. The CEO's privilege is to be the change creator. However, the CIOs whom I know also have this kind of privilege. In a natural way, they often initiate the major change. They see what can be changed, what can be improved, especially in technology-driven companies. I stand on the position that the CIO who initiated the major change should also become its leader, manager. The failures that are known to me repeated the following pattern: The originator didn't have time to lead the change or lost the interest in doing so. His successors didn't 'read' the original intention properly, lacked the overall perspective, couldn't control the implementation."

Panasiuk: "I will not agree with you, Tomek. For a long time we tried to establish such an environment ... that every worthwhile and accepted idea will be delivered. Finally, we concluded, that there are people involved in change who are creative, who have many good ideas, but soon become bored with implementation details, etcetera. While a good idea for a new market needs, for example, a year of heavy work, they prefer to create four to five new concepts or ideas and don't have time to track the first one. Thus, the change manager should directly lead or control the change. Those who lead the change in my organization are not top managers."

Matuła's response: "In a major change project, the success is based on the fact that a high-ranking officer leads it. They've got enough charisma and power to negotiate with the board and all players involved in change."

Pulwarski: "While speaking about changes that are strategic and affect the way business goes, changes not strictly technological, I would strongly oppose CIO leadership of the change. He might be, rather, the facilitator of the change, the tools and solutions vendor. Major change should be led by someone from the business and/or the board instead. The fact that the change is based on technology doesn't justify CIO leadership. Let us consider a PMO [project management office] localization analogy: In the beginning it was usually placed in the IT department. Later on, in mature organizations, it became an independent body governed directly by the board. For the same reason IT should not rule the business."

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Tags IT managementCIO roleNational Securities DepositPolish Press AgencyTPCity of Szczecin

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