Being a CIO is not what it used to be… thank… | Gagen MacDonald

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Being a CIO is not what it used to be… thank Goodness!

Jan 30, 2014

CIOs are more often than not responsible for more than traditional internal systems and technology. This is a great way for organizations to leverage the vantage point that CIOs enjoy both internally and externally.


  1. CIOs are aware of and often deeply involved with the organization’s strategy.
  2. CIOs understand the organizations assets and how we differentiate in the market from competitors. We see how technology can fuel this kind of positioning.
  3. Internally, CIOs hear every day about the challenges and opportunities that exist to improve the way the other business units deliver their products and services to customers.
  4. CIOs hear about challenges and opportunities to improve the internal service organizations processes and procedures. We know which shared services are working well and which need support. We know why employees are frustrated with internal obstacles and how to resolve them. We usually have strong relationships with our peers in HR, finance, operations, legal and communications. We know we need support from the other groups to be successful.
  5. CIOs know how the business works in pretty decent detail. We see the work flow across departmental silo’s and know where the black holes can be.
  6. CIOs know how investment decisions are made and how projects are prioritized- both formally and informally.
  7. Vendor management- IT often relies on external partners, suppliers and vendors to deliver services. These are lessons learned that can be shared with other parts of the organization as margin pressures force many services outside the organization.


  1. CIOs know where the technology industry is headed. We work with partners every day and are often intimately aware of product roadmaps and technology trends. We follow the big corporations and the startups. We are inspired by what is new and cool- that’s usually how we got here.
  2. CIOs have strong peer relationships with other CIOs – we read and hear a lot about what is happening in other businesses inside our industry and with other industries. We help each other.
  3. CIOs are constantly learning and growing and want to be ahead of the curve on what market forces will impact their organizations- it is one of our survival mechanisms to do so.
  4. CIOs understand risk and compliance- we pay attention to regulatory requirements and risks. This is often precipitated by a risk around IT security and grows broader with learning and exposure to these relationships and learning.
  5. CIOs know how to think about information and how to use it as a strategic asset.
  6. Outsourcing and globalization- this is an area IT has experience and lessons learned.

This translates to CIOs happily taking on responsibilities in the following areas:

  • Business transformation- This is a natural extension given the amount of change management, business process redesign and project management that happens within IT programs and projects already- not to mention the fact that governance is usually already in place to prioritize and fund business transformation projects through IT already.
  • Product development- As more and more companies realize they are technology companies more than anything else, and that their technology is their product, it makes sense that the organization who knows the most about technology is best suited to develop new products and services to go to market. IT also happens to have a pretty good understanding of the software development life cycle as well as a codified support model with service level agreements (SLA’s).
  • Analytics and Big Data- think Chief Information Officer to Chief Digital Officer.
  • Customer experience- IT is not a stranger to multi-channel customer service- websites, call centers, customer surveys as well as ad hoc requests from all directions are something that is part of our business model. If we are smart enough to embrace marketing and corporate communications to put a bow on what we already do, we can be well positioned to help the organization from the inside out to deliver a stellar customer experience and hopefully take what we learn and apply it from the outside in to improve the employee experience at the same time.
  • Simplification and operational excellence- Many CIOs can tell stories about learning industrial engineering techniques all the way back to Total Quality Management, Lean manufacturing and Six Sigma, through business process re-engineering (remember Michael Hammer?) and the formation of ITIL. Depending on industry, many have also been through post Katrina disaster training learning our nation’s national incident management system NIMS and Incident Command Systems ICS. We know how to document, streamline and automate multidisciplinary processes big and small. We know how to define a service offering and commit to key performance indices. We know how to manage a crisis and when to use a different process to get through troubled times and be sure to capture lessons learned. We know how to take care of our teams and to develop our people. We have much to learn from others, but we know that better than most because we do it every day.
  • Shared Services- From the beginning, IT has experienced the pendulum swing between a centralized and decentralized model. There were mainframes in huge data centers and then came PC’s. Then IT regained control for a short period in history with client server enterprise applications until the consumerization trend took off and employees started downloading their own apps. With the advent of ITIL there was some focus back on centralized services and what may become a happy medium with Software as a Service (SaaS) managed through a centralized IT organization along with improvements in response time by the advent of cloud computing. Good or bad, CIOs have been through the pros and cons of centralized and decentralized service models and have some perspective on what works and what doesn’t.
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