The New New CIO Role: Big Changes Ahead

By Thomas Wailgum, CIO |  Career, CIO role

"The whole consumerization movement is really tough on CIOs," says Davenport, "since now, for probably the first time in history, people have more powerful technologies at home and in their pockets than those that are provided by IT. I also think IT is more perceived as a barrier to getting things done now more than it ever was." One stark example: Articles in The Wall Street Journal and Forbes openly encourage execs to bypass IT for their sales, CRM, marketing and business intelligence applications.

Where does that leave the appointed leader of corporate technology strategy?

SuperValu's (SVU) Shurts, for one, doesn't view the "going around IT" managerial initiative on tech purchases as a bad thing, necessarily. "The key is having an IT department that is relevant, proactive and helpful. Because where I've seen business units getting their own technology and implementing it, for some of that, IT has to look itself in the mirror, because IT probably has been slow to act, been not too easy to do business with. That has probably lead the businesses to say: 'I have to go do something, because the world's getting by me.'"

In short, he says, "We, as IT, need to get on the front foot, because we've been on the back foot."

If you're ready to move to the front and change into a strategic executive, dive into the four areas where you must concentrate.

We all know that perception does not always equal reality. But most any CIO's transition from "order taker" to "strategic player" is going to be that much tougher if he and his IT staffers are perceived mostly as geeks who manage the help desk, PC passwords and data centers.

Here's the rub: Before CIOs even start talking about being more strategic, they first have to nail the IT basics. No one is arguing that the bread-and-butter IT deliverables are going away. It almost goes without saying these days. Almost.

Ken Harris, CIO of nutritional product maker Shaklee who also had senior IT roles at the Gap (GPS), Nike (NKE) and PepsiCo (PEP), says that the elevated, strategic CIO position today is "a mix of two dramatically different roles." One part is composed of the operational requirements: keeping systems, applications and data centers up; having security and disaster recovery covered; and ensuring subsecond response times on queries, just to name a couple, Harris says. "That is absolutely critical to be done," he says, "but by itself, it's not a sufficient condition for success."

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