The return of the CIO

Chief information officers have fallen out of grace in the past few years. But with technology picking up pace the time is now right for CIOs to once again find their voice in the board room.

Once viewed as the trendy, new kid on the block with unlimited potential, the role of the CIO has become stagnant over the past few years. As the cost of IT continues to rise and the connection between IT maintenance and revenue streams grow more divergent, CIOs are finding that their voice in the boardroom is losing its impact, effectively marginalising the position. As a result, running IT operations is hardly a stepping stone to the CEO’s chair at the head of the table.
According to CIO Magazine (2011), only 10 per cent of CIOs at Fortune 500 companies rise to the next level, the CIO is the least appreciated of the CXO roles and that a massive 23 per cent are eventually fired.
The way to win over perception is to attach yourself to revenue-generating projects, relying on real and measurable data that shows obvious operational benefits to the organisation. Look at web impressions for the new e-commerce site or improving time-to-market timelines to show how IT drives operational efficiencies. The problem is that many of these projects are still run through discrete business units such as a web group, product group or digital group under the marketing or operations departments - rather than under your purview in the IT department.
This lack of ownership over revenue-generating initiatives forces many IT organisations to focus most of their time and resources on operations - the effort to maintain current availability and status.
Activities such as patch management, asset management, lifecycle management, anti-virus, datacentre architecture, network optimisation, load balancing, redundancy, business continuity planning and administrative password resets are completed efficiently by your staff but are largely done in the background without the user aware.
On the flip side, tasks that are responsive in nature are more visible, putting your team’s “failures” directly in front of users. You’ve heard the expression “The best IT administrator is the one you never see.” To users, the worst IT administrator is the one always interrupting their work to upgrade a new OS or reconfigure a hard drive. They’re the ones who are perceived as a disruption to operations, inhibiting “real” work getting done.
Tasks like incident response, fixing application outages, handling virus outbreaks, natural disasters, connectivity outages, performance problems, software installations and setting up new devices just serve to remind users that IT really doesn’t have a handle on infrastructure.
Whether you like it or not, and whether it’s fair, CIOs are being judged on something as mundane as the corporate email system or how well they upgrade everyone to Windows 7.
And if that’s the case, why do they deserve more budget, and why should the CIO have a say in the boardroom?
How Do We Shift the Balance?

Fortunately, there is a way to reverse the perception of IT as an operational entity, and institute a IT systems management strategy that shows your executives that you are working in line with the organisation’s mission and goals. The first is to make proactive tasks more visible to users and the reactive less visible. CIOs can work on more strategic projects by creating their own opportunities to enable efficiencies and drive revenue.

Make the proactive visible



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