While drinking my cup of coffee this morning, I sat down to watch a video highlighted over on the Enterprise CIO Forum titled SAIC cyber security: “We eat our own dogfood”. In the video, SAIC’s CEO Walt Haverstein and CIO Charles Beard talk about their approach to security, innovation and the fact that they actually use their own systems and methods internally. These systems are then improved upon and those improvements are rolled out to provide better solutions for their clients.
What I found extremely interesting about this was the CEO’s comment toward the role of the CIO. To paraphrase him:
Charles isn’t just responsible for managing the IT function but also for creating and deploying innovative solutions that can help our clients.
The SAIC CIO isn’t just a techie who’s job is to “keep the lights on”…he’s looked at as someone that should be delivering solutions that can be used in the marketplace to drive revenue. He’s also looked at for driving innovation throughout the organization.
That’s an interesting concept, no?
Not only is the CIO and IT group ‘keeping the lights on’ but they are delivering real-world solutions to real-world problems that they see in their organization – and then helping their clients solve those same problems.
If you want an example of a CIO that exemplifies the “Officer” in Chief Information Officer, Mr. Beard may be a good example. Of course, I can’t really tell anything about the type of leader that he is or how he runs his business, but on the surface, it looks good.
While the video’s purpose was to show how SAIC is ‘eating their own dog food‘ by using the systems and methods that they also sell, a much more important lesson may be how the CIO and IT group are looked at as innovative teams driving real growth and value for the company.
Can you say the same about your IT group? Are you seen as innovative or unimaginative? Are you driving value or just driving people crazy with your processes and procedures?
The “O” in CIO is not silent. It stands for officer. Corporate officers are the people with day-to-day responsibility for running the corporation, such as the chief executive, chief financial officer, the treasurer and, yes, the CIO. For years CIO’s struggled to get a seat “at the table” and it pains me greatly to see cases where CIOs reach this level and, instead of rising to the occasion to serve as business leaders, revert to the geek role. I hope this is uncommon but I fear that it is not.
Earlier in his post, Joel describes a meeting that he attended with all the officers of the company. In that meeting, all the officers of the company were present and discussing strategic plans. The CIO was there along with the CEO, CFO, COO, etc etc. Awesome…the CIO had a seat at the table!
But…what was the CIO doing? Joel writes:
…the CIO who showed up with his laptop and, while the rest of us debated various strategic alternatives and explored opportunities to grow and diversify this $100 million + business, apparently spent the entire day answering e-mail and responding to instant messages. In fact, his only comments the entire day were some negative remarks about one of the company’s strategic business partners.
Think back to your meetings…have you spent the meeting being engaged did you spend it buried in your laptop or smartphone responding to some ‘crisis’?
My personal experience with CIO’s and other senior level IT leaders mirrors that of Joel…while in meetings, they spend a good deal of their time reacting to issues outside of the meeting rather than being present and providing leadership.
CIO’s and IT have been fighting for years to get ‘a seat at the table’….so why not take that seat and run with it? Be present…be valuable.
As Joel says…if you get the seat at the table, BE AT THE TABLE. Be present. Be available and be real. Don’t hide behind your computer or smartphone…provide leadership and actually be an ‘officer’ of the company. Get your head out of the technology for at least a few minutes and focus on the business.
In that article, Pearl highlights the issues facing CIO’s and IT today…and does a good job of outlining why these issues exist.
Nice article and worth the jump over to read it.
The top 10 challenges facing the CIO today, according to Pearl, are:
Cloud Strategies & Solutions
Big Data Analytics
Security and Governance/Risk/Control Management
IT Strategic ROI
Business Process Optimization/Innovation
IT Talent Management
IT Culture Asset
Pretty good list there…and a very big list.
These are challenges for sure…but are they challenges that have just cropped up? Are they just now becoming something that CIO’s and IT groups should be focused on?
Perhaps…but I think there are a few items on that list that should have been front-and-center for years. Culture? Yep. Talent Management? Yep. Security, Modernization, BPO, Strategic ROI? Yep Yep Yep etc.
Don’t get me wrong…Pearl does a great job of highlighting the issues…and these are the challenges facing CIO’s today, but they aren’t challenges that have just arisen. They may be the top challenges, but most have been the top challenges for years.
I do like seeing things like “culture’ and ‘talent management’ though. Makes me feel good about the future of IT – we are finally seeing some focus on the people of IT rather than just the technology of IT.
What do you think about this list…anything missing?
With your current workload and team, can your IT group conquer these challenges? If no – how will you prioritize what gets done…what of these 10 challenges is most important to you and your company?
I’m starting to see more people talk about the real need for change within IT groups. The big analyst/consulting companies (Forester, Garnter, etc) are putting out a lot of ‘change’ blog posts and articles…see Khalid Kark’s The New CIO — Embrace The Empowered Era Or Step Aside or most of Mark McDonald‘s stuff on his Garnter blog for example. Mark’s been writing about the need for change for as long (or longer) than I have…but I’m just now seeing others following suit.
I love seeing this….its time that IT, the CIO and IT professionals really understand that change is needed. I’ve been writing about the need for change for years in my The New CIO category…change is needed and necessary – and in fact…I believe change is coming.
That said…..there’s another side to the story.
We’ve been talking about the need for IT and the CIO to change. But…there’s also a need for the entire organization to change.
We can’t ask our IT group to change if the rest of the organization isn’t willing to come along on the road to change.
For example – we want IT to be more flexible and responsive. But…do we give the IT group the ability to be responsive? Do we allow them to have the flexibility to be flexible (redundant…I know)?
Has the organization told the IT group and the CIO that its OK….that its really OK to embrace change?
I ask these questions because I’ve just had and email conversation with a CIO of a fairly large organization. He contacted me after reading many of my “The New CIO” posts and wanted some advice.
This CIO, I’ll call him “Mike”, wants to change. He wants his IT group to change. In fact, Mike said that the people within his group are clamoring for change….but he and his team feel like their hands are tied by the organization.
Just a Tool
Its a simple answer…his team is viewed as a ‘tool’ of the organization.
They are the IT group. They keep servers running. They keep the lights on. They are an operational ‘tool’. In fact- that’s the mission of the IT group as written in the strategic plan for the organization. An excerpt from that plan (used with permission):
…we’ll accomplish these goals but using the operational strength of our information technology team with the tools and tactical skills that they offer…
Some interesting words there…tactical…operational…tools.
All fine words and necessary too. There’s definitely an operational component to every IT group…but there should also be a strategic component.
I asked Mike to explain his involvement in the strategic planning process. He said he was involved and actually helped chair the planning committee. A CIO in a role doing more than just focusing on technology…awesome.
I asked Mike to help me understand how the IT group was relegated to being part of the toolbox rather than being one of the carpenters, especially given that he was involved in the strategic planning process.
His answer wasn’t surprising. Hhe said:
The CEO and COO think of my IT team as being a bunch of techies with little social skills and even less business accumen. They feel like the IT group should be seen and not heard. In fact, they believe that IT should ‘…just make sure the servers keep running’.
There ya have it folks.
You want to know why IT is the way it is? Because that’s the way the organization wants them to be.
Mike has tried everything to ‘get a seat at the table’ and step into leadership roles within the organization. He’s had some success but at the end of the day, the organization sees him and his team has maintenance folks.
Can things change? Yes.
Should they change? Yes.
Will they? I believe so…but to what extent, I can’t really say.
The moral of this story is this – Yes…change is necessary. Change will happen…but its not just the IT group and the CIO that need to change. The entire organization must change.
Its a two-way street though. The IT group & CIO must find demonstrable ways of showing value to the organization…and the organization must be willing to see the value within the IT group.
The IT group will never be more than the organization allows it to be. The CIO can try to morph their IT group into something different…and lord knows every CIO should be trying…but until the organization allows the IT group to change we’ll be at an impasse.
Reminds me of the chicken and egg story: Which comes first…IT change or organizational change?
I’ve been writing about The New CIO for a little over 2 years and I still see many of the same issues within IT shops and CIO offices that I saw in 2009. Thankfully, Forrester has now decided to write about the topic. Gosh..they are slow. 🙂
The CIO role is about to change drastically and significantly. The CIOs who continue to manage technology and focus only on execution will not survive. The ones who embrace this change and step up to enable the business, empower the employees, and encourage innovation across the organization will succeed in this role
We’ve all seen this coming…I just wonder why its taken so long for some CIO’s to really get it?
Khalid provides five ‘new’ dimensions for the ‘new’ CIO to begin to focus on. They are:
From alignment to convergence
From execution to innovation
From technology supplier to services orchestrator
From operations to business outcomes
From rules to guardrails
I agree with them all. In fact…me thinks I’ve been saying that for a while. Glad I was on the right track 😉
Good to see Forrester pushing CIO’s in the right direction.
I just hope CIO’s and IT groups don’t see these new dimensions as just another ‘idea’ that consultants are trying to sell…if so…I have a feeling we’ll be right back ’round to discuss these same issues next year.
Note: I love technology…believe me I do. I just really liked this photo 🙂
I Just finished reading Implementing new technologies for the right reasons over on the Enterprise CIO Forum. The article, written by Martin Davis of Canada’s J D Irving Ltd, provides a nice reminder in today’s technology driven world. The post is a good one with some excellent advice and worth jumping over and reading. I’d like to highlight one very important aspect from that post.
It often seems that we decide on a technology solution then start looking for an opportunity to use it, or we implement technology projects because they seem like a good idea. Possibly you feel that IT is leading the customer and worry that if IT did not propose new solutions the business would still be using pen and paper?
Now…what Martin says is really nothing new (and he even admits that)…but its worth repeating. Actually, it seems like we have to repeat it regularly within IT because we tend to forget it. That said, I think we in IT need to start communicating this same message out to those not in IT as well, especially given that many technology projects are now being kicked off and driven by non-IT people and groups.
What I’ve found over the last few years is that many non-IT groups have been given more control over their technology projects and/or have Shadow IT projects underway. These projects have given their stakeholders a feel for technology projects, which leads to more technology projects…and more technology projects.
The danger here, as most of us in IT know too well, is that implementing technology for technology’s sake is a bad idea. Just because we can implement a new ‘gee whiz’ system, doesn’t always mean we should.
Martin continues with:
The boundaries between IT and business are becoming increasingly blurred by consumer technology, however IT is still responsible for researching and making the business aware of opportunities. But, this should be one of many inputs into the business strategy process, and not the only reason to implement new technology.
Very true. Just because a technology is available, doesn’t mean its right for the business. Keep in mind – Strategy first, Technology Second.