In response to an argument put forward that CMOs should lead the IT land-grab I commented with the following metaphor-cum-parable.
The parable of the CIO’s car.
A CIO enters his car and drives the same dangerous road every day. With twists, blind bends, bad weather and other dangerous drivers, the road requires a great deal of skill to drive.
One day a Vendor sells the CMO some go faster stripes for the car. “Here” he says, “these stripes can stick to the car and make it go faster.”
Easily the stripes stick to the car. The CMO is happy. The CIO does not mind as it does not make the drive any more dangerous.
Over many months the Vendor and his associates sell the CMO additional accessories for the car. Spinning hub caps, a sat nav device, fluffy dice and even a performance exhaust.
However one day when the CIO comes to the car, he is shocked to find that the CMO’s vendors are installing dual control pedals and have moved the steering wheel to the centre of the car.
“What is happening?” asks the stunned CIO.
With confidence the CMO replied, “We were not making the journey fast enough, so the Vendor and I have added new features to get us to the destination. I have picked the best in class pedals and the changes are being done by an experienced fitter.”
With a deep breath, the CIO points out “Neither you nor the Vendor know the dangers of the road ahead. You do not know where the blind bends are. You do not know how dangerous the drivers on the road can be.
“Whilst this car may appear old; it is reliable, safe and completes a difficult journey. I know this car inside and out. I know what it is capable of. These new changes risk damaging that safety and reliability.
“We may not be able to complete the journey.”
CIOs are facing massive pressures to rapidly innovate and transform their business and there is naivety in suggestions that their role is redundant in the digital age. This post highlights three recent article on what is required of the modern, digital CIO:
Becoming a rock-star CIO
Didier Bonnet of Capgemini Consulting discusses three organisational challenges that CIOs face in the digital age and how a CIO should respond. To summarise briefly, the rock-star CIOs:
- Develop trusted relationships with the business and vendors
- Support other CXOs in launching technology initiatives
- Have employed or re-skilled the function to be aligned with digital
- Manage finances carefully by saving IT costs to reinvest in digital initiatives
We are a technology company
As a lover of data and stats, I enjoyed Shawn Banerji’s post that summarised research from 1,000 CIOs. Essentially there is a major gap between what CIOs have set as a priority and their ability to effectively deliver against it. This is compounded as more organisations describe themselves as a technology company that happens to deliver banking, groceries, clothing etc.
To improve the efficiency of these areas, Banerji suggests that CIOs need support from other areas of the business. For example HR really need to back up the CIO in his ambition to re-skill, recruit and prune back.
We actually are a technology company
Google’s CIO, Ben Fried discusses with HBR the challenge to create a great IT department in one of the world’s biggest tech companies.
Ben challenges CIOs to raise their game in terms of connecting with the broader business. For example the CIO needs to ensure that employees have access to the right productivity tools so that they can do their job. Intranets also need to be serving the needs of business employees and helping them connect with technology and become better at serving customers. Finally the IT department staff need to be expert in supporting employees. There’s no room in his mind for cheap, scripted call centre approaches to IT support.