Buying into bimodal IT is like a CIO owning acres of swampland, writes Richard Pastore of the CIO Executive Council. Even if the CIO builds one or two digital smart homes on the swamp, it’s still a bad, bad neighborhood.
Stories by Richard Pastore
In today’s digital business, the CIO role enjoys the broadest and deepest impact in its history. Still, the question remains: 'What can successful CIOs step up to?' In the debut of his 'Transformation Nation' column, Richard Pastore of the CIO Executive Council looks to answer that question.
They may be on the cutting edge of technology developments and innovation, but some of Boston's highest-profile companies in such top sectors as healthcare, education,and financial service are lacking digital catalysts on their boards. In fact, only 170 of the Fortune 500 companies have "digital directors" -- people who have led digital companies or transformed enterprises digitally -- on their boards.
A new generation of CEOs-not in age but in perspective-has embraced the notion of CIOs as strategic business peers.
Chris Patrick, global CIO practice leader with executive recruiter Egon Zehnder International, advises CEOs to ask potential CIOs questions that elicit their knowledge of business strategy, customers and their industries.
CIO candidates should be ready to answer these questions designed to gauge their strategic orientation.
We seem to have reached a point where virtually every CIO is a global CIO--a leader whose sphere of influence (and headaches) spans continents. The global CIO's most common challenge, according to CIO Executive Council members, is managing global virtual teams. The council's European members, representing Royal Dutch Shell, Galderma, Olympus and others, commissioned a globalization playbook that collects and codifies best practices in this and other globalisation challenges. Some of its findings are presented here.
In an ideal world, HR policies across the global IT team should be consistent, fair and responsive. Titles and reporting structures (if not compensation) should be equalized. But as Jay Crotts, CIO of Royal Dutch Shell Lubricants, points out, "The world may be flat but HR terms and conditions are not." Global consistency must allow for and align with local laws and cultural norms. Not an easy task. In addition, the cost of living varies considerably by region. So from an HR standpoint, a one-size-fits-all model is unworkable. Besides the struggle for consistency, CIOs must find ways for remote teams to stay connected to the heart of the business.
As the US enters year three of the IT doldrums, one can be forgiven for bowing to the pessimistic view that IT has had its day in the sun and we have awoken in the gray dawn of a permanently depressed industry. Wrong! It's just one hell of a hangover, says economist W. Brian Arthur. "We had a huge party in the late 1990s," he says. "Now it's time to get up out of bed and begin a solid, serious technology buildout."
Did you ever need a decision made, and you couldn't get the attention of the person or persons who had a critical say in the decision? An executive puts you off for weeks, then suddenly goes on a two-week vacation to Bali. So you make the decision yourself without his input. Three months later, the exec -- long back from his vacation and resettled into his normal pattern of chaotic inaccessibility -- stops by to ask how the hell you came up with such a questionable course of action.
Multiply this common scenario by a whole department and millions of dollars at stake, or a whole company and billions of dollars, and you have the reason why IT governance drives CIOs crazy. Right now at companies across the planet, supposedly sane executives responsible for the fate of companies refuse to take part in such pivotal IT and business decisions as architecture choices, standards and infrastructure platforms. And to add injury to this insult, they lay all the accountability for the decisions' success (or more likely, lack of success) on the IT group.
"If you can get an organization to move faster by creating a separate [Web development] group, then you should do it," says Brian Farrar, chief operating officer at the Chicago consultancy Xpedior Inc.