January 03, 2001, 1:17 PM — THERE IS NO LONGER a one-size-fits-all job description for CIOs, and individuals can flounder in the role unless they understand this. Many organizations have acknowledged this trend. Just look at the proliferation of titles such as CTO, E-Business Architect, and Chief Knowledge Officer -- they are clear evidence that the responsibilities of top IT executives don't always fit neatly in a single package. Still, many CIOs suffer from an acute identity crisis, and turnover among individuals in this top slot continues to be high.
It's true that most CIOs have a common problem: a priority list that stretches much further than their budgets and their staff's bandwidth. It's also true that if you're a CIO, business savvy is assumed, in addition to your technology expertise, and the nature and level of your responsibilities is growing. And if you're a CIO, e-business and the IT staffing crisis keep you up at night, while ERP (enterprise resource planning) deployment, stressed infrastructure, CRM (customer relationship management), application integration, security, and outsourcing worries simmer on a burner somewhere.
Although CIOs have all that in common, the specific priorities of any CIO are now being shaped by a mixture of dynamic internal and external drivers. As a result, the CIO's agenda is mostly a result of the environment of which they are a part.
Bubbling up from inside the organization are several issues that affect CIO agendas. These include changing customer needs, changing employee attitudes, the need to streamline and speed up business, and the need to create new products and services. Add to that the need to optimize supply chains and build flexible business architectures, including partnerships and alliances.
From the outside, CIOs must factor in issues such as the changing Internet landscape, changing industry structures (that are being shaken by e-business), emerging business models, the availability of capital and changing investor expectations, worker demographics, and the commoditization of technology.
If you are a CIO, your priorities will be shaped by all the internal and external factors mentioned above, as well as others. Specifically, you must determine how these factors are affecting your business, and how initiatives in these areas will change your job. Unfortunately, if they aren't sure what they are supposed to be, many CIOs revert to the fallback position of reactionary custodian of the technology infrastructure, and fail in their role. Looking at the internal and external drivers for your organization will help you determine which of the following you must be.