THE SCENARIO A management restructure in your organisation includes the appointment
of a new chief executive officer. As information chief, you have held
your own, delivering some innovative business and consumer services in
recent years. But you get the distinct impression the new boss doesn't
look favourably on information technology. You have invested a lot of
time and effort in your job and are considering your options. Do you
try harder to sell yourself and your team to the new CEO or admit
defeat and cut and run?
Chief Information Officer
This type of scenario is becoming increasingly common as strategic
chief information officers follow the investment curve of their
IT is in a continual state of evolution that has recently begun to
accelerate. Factors such as the growth of dynamic business systems,
migration towards a service-based economy and the commoditisation of
many traditional business services are contributing to its
Today, strategic CIOs are being asked to show quantifiable value from
IT investments, often a company's largest capital investment. IT is
expected to generate innovative business services, improve internal
collaborative capabilities and support dynamic business systems. IT
must now be run as a business with a service-delivery focus.
Yet while IT has become integral to the success of many companies, the
ability to articulate its value has remained elusive. One possible
explanation is that a conscious and concerted approach to managing IT
from a service-oriented business perspective has been lacking.
CIOs need to help the CEO justify reshaping the organisation to
include the chief technologist among the top decision-makers. To do
this and to participate in the company's agenda setting, the
information chief has to learn to frame technology solutions in an
enterprise construct and to balance them against other business
CIOs can't argue for technology in a vacuum; they must champion it
through comparison with other options the company has, and by using
expertise to describe the transformational opportunities specific to
the organisation. They must articulate the core technology vision. How
and what flows from this vision will affect the business' financial
and operating performance.
Chief information officers also need to acknowledge that the chief
executive has to look beyond the requirements of the company's IT
infrastructure and, to that end, CIOs must know business.
By failing to separate IT service from IT strategy - and comprehending
that the CIO is ultimately responsible for both - chief executives
often grow frustrated with their chief technologists, confused as to
whether they should be asked to provide utility or something more
critical. Information chiefs need to manage both, and for the
relationship between CEO and CIO to work, that dynamic has to be
understood and a partnership formed.
To effectively sell, CIOs need to empathise with other divisions while
understanding the business formally, politically and personally. What
do really great salespeople do? They paint a persuasive picture of how
great your world will be once you buy their product.
The first step: understand your product. In the case of a CIO, that's
IT. Without that knowledge, no matter how good you are at step two -
understanding your prospect's world - you'll have no way of
progressing to step three, which is putting that knowledge and your
product together and working with the CEO to deliver real business
Chief Information Officer
PKF Chartered Accountants
Starting an IT career in the early 1990s, I worked in a back-office
environment; held in contempt as a necessary evil while other
shared-services divisions were viewed as adding more value to the
Of course, in those days, there was the ubiquitous grey-haired,
bearded IT manager patiently working towards retirement and happy to
defer decisions and responsibility to the finance director.
Both of these scenarios sat uncomfortably with me. In my mid-30s, the
move into IT was my third major career change. For the previous 10
years I'd been a business owner/operator who was comfortable making
decisions and taking responsibility for them.
I strongly believe you make your own opportunities in life and, not
content to sit back and wait for change, I promoted myself through
hard work, innovative business solutions and a couple of corporate
The reporting structure for heads of information technology is quite
varied, so it is entirely possible that a new executive could change
and demote the position of IT within the organisation.
It took more than a stodgy old IT manager to promote the value of IT
to the business. It took - in most instances - driven,
business-focused IT professionals engaging with senior executives.
Moving from the back office was a reasonably slow process of building
relationships, listening to requirements, empathising and
demonstrating that IT had matured enough to work with (and not
against) the business.
For too long IT was (and in some cases, still is) seen as an obstacle
to productivity: the "technology police". Is it any wonder IT was kept
in the back room?
Meanwhile, administration, marketing and finance were endearing
themselves by paying the bills and wages, or promoting the business
with innovative strategies. For IT to "come out", there had to be
So there's movement in the organisation, the incumbent CEO is moving
on and the new guy is making changes. The situation is normal; it
happens all the time and we've been there before.
Time to start building relationships, time to show a professional
business approach and, most importantly, time to demonstrate IT's
value to the bottom line.
Information security manager
NSW Fire Brigades
A management restructure is an important corporate event, especially
when a new chief executive is being appointed. It's pretty grim for IT
if you get an early impression that your department is not viewed
favourably, but the underlying reasons could be many, and even
The challenges a CIO faces are on numerous fronts and it is essential
to demonstrate the capability and tenacity to deliver results in
business terms. Companies are increasingly becoming dependent on IT;
adopting latest information technologies for efficiency, reach,
resilience, availability and even assurance.
IT has matured (sometimes it is even treated as a commodity) but it
will continue to be strategic as long as it gives the organisation a
competitive advantage. CIOs have come a long way in establishing IT as
a strategic component of the company and have earned a place in the
business decision-making echelons. The CIO, like any leader, has a
vested interest in taking the organisation forward.
To take up the challenge, the CIO must convey a willingness to work
within the new framework and convince the CEO about the strategic role
of IT. It requires a holistic view of the business to make IT a
significant part of the strategy being developed.
Another important challenge is to effectively execute IT strategy. The
CIO as a leader, and a strategist, is responsible for IT growth in the
organisation. The IT shop must have the ability to provide business
units with new capabilities that enhance their strategies. This can
only be achieved by providing an environment of trust, learning and
opportunity. A strategy that always works is to implement a few
quick-win projects for the business.
The CIO must plan to invest in the core IT infrastructure, to make it
resilient, reliable, efficient and accredited. This involves setting
up high-availability system technology and IT infrastructure, service
support systems, operations management software, process and procedure
documentation, and skilled resources to implement and support
One of the most important challenges is to create a culture where
business and IT work in partnership to develop and put in place
enterprise-level systems and automate end-to-end business processes.
IT must be able to adopt and support technologies that open new ways
of delivering IT services. It should also be capable of automating
business processes by orchestrating services across the organisation
as well as with customers and partners.
As a CIO, I must ensure that the user world, is satisfied by the
services IT provides and supports. The CIO must provide the right
tools and resources to the "service platform" for business and IT
services, which in essence means ensuring the utility of a service is
available as needed, with the necessary capacity, continuity and
To achieve all I have just talked about and more, an information chief
must try to develop a culture that will make things happen. A culture
that is prepared to change, adapts, and grows with time.
One very important factor that will put everything into perspective is
the implementation of best-practice management frameworks around
governance, strategic investment, information security, disaster
recovery, change management, service delivery and architecture.
Last, if not least, information technology must establish its own
identity by publishing newsletters and booklets, and organising
regular events where the team can share its achievements and plans
while socialising with others in the company.
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