Keeping the data flowing and the BlackBerry devices working is no longer enough for chief information officers. They now also have to engineer organisational change to impress the boss. Research by MIT's Sloan School of Management has discovered links between a company's financial performance and the way its executives view the CIO role.
In successful companies, the CIO was one whose role extended beyond operations, says Peter Weill, the director of MIT Sloan's centre for information system research.
Weill surveyed 265 non-IT executives and found most thought the leader of their company's IT division should be responsible for big re-engineering projects.
Those surveyed think the CIO is in a good position to oversee such projects, which tend to cut across several different parts of an organisation.
"This research reinforced an earlier survey we did in collaboration with Gartner research," Weill says. "We found that those who were successful agreed they often ran big-change projects, even if that role was not specifically referred to as a part of their job.
"On the other hand, the CIOs with not such a great record said they were much more occupied with IT operations. Now that's fair enough, the operations side has to be successfully outsourced, measured and managed, but once that is under control, successful CIOs tend to fill their diary with agility and leadership issues. Those who are not successful spend much of their day dealing with BlackBerry messages detailing problems."
He cites the example of a large American car dealership and warranty retailer, JM Family.
"The CIO there decided to improve oversight by creating an IT dashboard," Weill says.
"It was very fancy and provided real-time measures of system uptime, service quality, response time and so on. He presented it with great fanfare to his executive colleagues, who were very much ho-hum. He had done all this great work and nobody cared.
"So then he created a dashboard to measure business performance. When certain measures - like the number of warranties sold - went above or below a certain point, the business managers were pinged on their BlackBerry. Suddenly, his colleagues were very keen."
A managing director at executive search firm ¿Edward W Kelley & Partners, ¿Marianne Broadbent, is a former colleague of Weill's from the University of Melbourne. She says that Australian companies and Weill's respondents view chief information officers similarly.
"It is a matter of deeply understanding what matters to the business," she says.
However, Graham Brown, a former CIO at Woolworths, says: "You have to be business-focused but you ... need expert knowledge to hold your own in a debate and you won't be able to do that if you are always relying on others."
Need to know:
* In successful companies, the CIO's role extends beyond operations.
* Non-IT executives say the leaders of their IT divisions are in a good
position to oversee re-engineering. MIS
© Fairfax Business Media
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