I was recently at a job interview at which I was asked by the CEO what I would do (as the senior IT/IS leader in the organization) to make his life easier. My response included the typical “reduce cost, reduce risk, improve efficiency” lines, but what got his head nodding in agreement was my explanation that – probably a couple years out – I would want the IT/IS to be at the forefront of the company’s strategy and not solely ‘aligned’ with the strategy. To me, this should be standard, but apparently it isn’t. Over the next several posts, I’ll be exploring what I believe to be the major contributors to this gap.
The traditional CIO
Almost 15 years ago I completed my MBA to complement my computer science degree. Upon graduation, I knew the career I was seeking would be a combination of business and IT. I spent a number of years in the world of business analysis and eventually set my sites on the role of CIO. To me, the CIO role appeared to be the ideal means to leverage my technical and business education, experience, and expertise.
As I moved to more senior roles, I began to gain more exposure to the CIO position, and what I saw surprised me. For the most part, the CIOs I saw either were senior technologists whose experience lay within IT infrastructure, or the CIOs were so focused on ‘keeping the lights on’ that the applications side of the shop was clearly not their priority. As someone who had come up the applications ranks, this was discouraging, as it appeared that future opportunities would be limited due to me being on the “wrong” side. Looking back on it now, I obviously do understand the absolute necessity of keeping the lights on; at the same time, I wonder how those CIOs – and those IT infrastructure & operations teams – are faring in today’s world.