CIO: Revolutionary or Steward?
Is this the time for CIOs to make a move and lead the charge for innovation? Or should they stick to the considerable challenges they’re already wrestling with?
For CIOs who want a seat at the strategy table, today’s business environment could be the wave you’re looking for. With enterprise collaboration, mobility, social software and the cloud on everyone’s mind, the technology agenda is the business agenda.
Here is the debate:
Eat what’s already on your plate.
The CIO’s current role is important enough.
|Get real. You still have a long list of business needs to meet and a seemingly endless supply of improvement needs in IT delivery. Isn't that enough?||Processes almost always need to be improved, but a revolutionary approach to information can do something more important: shift the business model. This is not the time for being timid.|
|Revolution? Naah…the CIO role will evolve and developments like social networking, mobility and the cloud will shift the landscape. But traditional IT can provide the foundation.||Business resources will go where innovation leads. Today, the direction is pointing to procurement, vendor management and the care and feeding of foundational IT assets. Does your company really need a C-level officer for that?|
|The most significant capital expenditure your company makes are in IT. That demands a strong hand at the helm – not someone trading on futures.||The “strong hand at the helm” model is defunct. Information and technology capabilities are being pushed broadly within the organization – and beyond. Everything is distributed. How does the CIO’s current role fit that model?|
A sea change is afoot. It’s time for CIOs to lead.
|Social computing, mobility and the cloud aren’t just changing society, they’re disrupting business. Who’s better positioned to help take advantage of these new tools than the CIO?||CIOs had a hard enough time with the “easy” stuff, like using technology to run the business. Why should the business listen to them in the face of big new changes?|
|Expectations for IT in the workplace are shifting quickly in the face of generational change and evolving consumer technologies. Customers and employees will demand a different strategy from the CIO’s shop.||Maybe so. But today we’re more worried about enabling collaboration and managing security for this new generation. And that’s part of the CIO’s current job description.|
|The Great Recession changed everything. CIOs who double down on cost center oversight and “more of the same” capabilities are putting themselves on the fast track to irrelevance.||Don’t learn the wrong lessons. Efficiency, effectiveness and regulatory mastery are even more important now. Don’t chase tomorrow’s rainbows at the expense of today’s serious responsibilities.|
Matt Law, Principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP
Before determining whether or not it’s time for revolutionary CIOs, it’s worth examining what that means. What do revolutionaries actually do? They challenge the rules, upset the status quo, break up established institutions, overthrow the king, etc. – all in the name of the greater good, ideally. That sounds pretty good to me. In fact, leading CIOs who oversee business transformation programs have been doing those types of things for years.
As companies look to gain more business insight to get ahead of their competition, their investments in new technology that can deliver those insights will continue at a healthy pace. But at the same time, they’ll still be expected to fight the same old battle of controlling costs in more traditional IT service areas. All of which leads to a fundamental decision CIOs will have to make – should they ramp up in areas like mobility, business analytics, cloud computing and social software, or toe the line in existing areas, focusing on controlling costs?
Is there really a choice? New and emerging technologies like those mentioned above offer fundamentally disruptive capabilities, shaking up business models or transforming how business is done in existing markets. CIOs who can help the business channel these extraordinary capabilities will take on an important new title: business strategist. That’s exactly where they should be today. But to make it happen, it takes a revolutionary – not a steward.
Sound scary? You don’t have to take on these new challenges all at once. But if you don’t start rethinking your approach to the role of the CIO, well, the verdict seems clear: someone else will.
A view from the Technology sector
Russ Smariga, Specialist Leader, Deloitte Consulting LLP
I recently worked with a CIO who was chosen for the job specifically for his business acumen and stewardship capabilities. Over the course of his first three years in the seat, he drove more than 40 percent of the cost out of the company’s annual IT spend while maintaining existing service levels, deploying new services and driving user satisfaction up from 68 percent to 92 percent. Then, during the next two years, he had the opportunity to drive long term corporate strategy by bringing creative new business-enabling ideas to the table. My point? There’s a clear need for the CIO to be a revolutionary leader. But there’s a caveat – the CIO must have a clearly demonstrated ability to run an organization that is able to maintain existing services and optimize them in terms of cost and performance. If they haven’t demonstrated their ability to be a steward, they probably won’t be given the opportunity to be a revolutionary.
A view from the Retail sector
Chuck Dean, Director, Deloitte Consulting LLP
We’re in the middle of yet another technology cycle. And as these cycles occur more quickly and frequently each time, it becomes more important for CIOs in the retail industry to integrate their disruptive benefits into the fabric of IT. While they haven’t always needed to lead the charge, retail CIOs have consistently worked alongside their peers to help navigate through the hype, employing the right approaches and disciplines to mitigate business risk and bring new benefits to the whole organization. Internet storefronts. Flash for website designers. End user tools for analytics. In each case, retail CIOs helped set up the appropriate guardrails for proper use and let business users do their thing. Is that revolutionary? In many cases, yes.
No matter how you describe it, the CIO’s job is to find the right balance between controls and controlling, between leading and supporting – and recognizing when it’s time to put their hands back on the wheel to keep everything on track. All of which becomes more important in an environment where retailers are attempting to keep costs at a minimum while also preparing to make their move when the time is right. That means retail CIOs need to keep finding ways to squeeze more value out of existing investments – but they also need to make sure the organization is on sure footing when the economy picks up steam. Some retailers have already been forced to make wholesale upgrades to their infrastructure after falling too far behind, just trying to keep the lights on. Don’t let it happen to you.
A view from the Federal sector
Skip Bailey, Director, Deloitte Consulting LLP
For the federal government CIOs I know, growing security challenges feel like a heavy anchor weighing down their high-flying ideas. But it’s a new world out there and CIOs who act too cautiously are likely to be left behind. If they want to help the organization meet its mission, they have to be more fearless. In the federal environment, these revolutionary CIOs must develop strong ties to the operational side of the organization, vocally advocating for the moves required to accomplish their mission. From there, they have two primary functions. First, they have to keep costs in check by getting a handle on technology spending. Sourcing strategies, standards and architectures can have a big role to play in this effort. Second (and most important), CIOs have to help the organization find innovative ways to use technology. But there’s a catch: federal CIOs can’t skip ahead to the job of innovation without first bringing costs under control. Ultimately, innovation is where the real value lies, but it’s enabled by a steady focus on cost.
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