More CIOs are gaining stature as business strategists

By Kim S. Nash , CIO |  IT Management

Clean, clear thinking from the CIO about basic corporate goals helps keep IT from drifting into nonessential areas. But, our survey shows, CIOs are learning they must also employ a variety of management tools to support the mission--and enhance their own value.

Delegation and Mixed Meetings

To generate goodwill quickly, it's always effective to use some time-tested methods, such as completing quick-win IT projects for business colleagues. But any self-respecting C-suite expects a lot more than just quick wins, which means CIOs have to use more sophisticated and nuanced tactics to elevate IT.

For example, it makes sense that by delegating more IT operations to high-performing direct reports, a CIO can gain time to focus on strategic issues. But there's no single formula for deciding what to delegate and to whom.

Kudman at Sealed Air created the position of VP of IT business management to monitor technology spending and manage IT vendors. He also created a "value-management team" of 20 to 25 people responsible for making sure the company gets the maximum possible value from already-installed software and hardware. The team also educates business units and even IT staff about the capabilities and capacities of existing systems, Kudman says. "If I didn't have people I could rely on, how I spend my time would be very different."

By delegating, he frees up time to brainstorm with non-IT peers about ways to push Sealed Air ahead of rivals in the food and medical materials packaging business. The company recently started to deploy machines that monitor whether healthcare workers wash their hands between patient visits. The devices gather data, collect compliance reports and send alerts to supervisors. The IT group discussed the business case for this new technology-based revenue stream and suggested methods of data storage and security to the business unit. That's the kind of advanced strategy-shaping CIOs should strive for, he says.

Not only do CIOs worry about business units or departments going around IT to contract with cloud vendors to provide IT services, but also they worry that colleagues will ignore internal IT when devising new technology-enabled business models, Kudman observes. "The most important thing is to be the trusted adviser."

At Potlatch, a $500 million timber and wood products company, delegation looks different. Having assigned infrastructure operations, including phone systems and networking, to a couple of IT staffers, IT Director Brent Gregory is now redistributing applications work. He encourages several of his trusted staff to learn more about specific business areas, such as running mills and cutting and replenishing timber. The goal is to have these IT people take ownership of the applications that most matter to those groups, Gregory says.

Originally published on CIO |  Click here to read the original story.
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