Leadership, The New CIO

The Sidelined CIO

soc14-info-ss3-100526352-gallery.idgeThe 2014 CIO State of the CIO Survey has some interesting data related to the role of the CIO. One of the interesting pieces of that survey relates to the idea that CIO’s are feeling as though they are being pushed aside. Nearly 30 percent of CIO’s reportedly feel ‘sidelined in their businesses as they watch shadow IT increase.’

My instinct tells me that many of those 30 percent of CIO’s are struggling today because they haven’t taken the step forward to drive innovation within the organization, embrace new systems and help their organization’s drive new technology adoption to allow for flexible and agile service delivery for internal and external clients.

In most cases, if your role and your organization isn’t seen as one that delivers innovative ideas, the organization will find a way to work around you. That’s what is happening with many of these CIO’s who feel sidelined. These CIO’s have stayed in the ‘old world’ of IT where no technology project was initiated without their approval. These CIO’s are seeing themselves sidelined today because they are still waiting to be asked to ‘help’ when, in fact, most parts of the business can turn up new systems and services at the push of a button with Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) or Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) providers.

Being sidelined is no fun, regardless of what role you currently hold but being sidelined as a CIO must be extremely frustrating. There’s a secret that most of these sidelined CIO’s don’t know though. That secret has to do with leadership from the CIO.

Martha Heller, author of the CIO Paradox, describes it perfectly when she writes that the CIO needs to lead inside and outside the IT organization. The organization wants the CIO to lead innovation via technology and systems. The organization wants the CIO and IT group to be at the leading edge of everything that touches technology. The organization wants the CIO and IT group to take the lead.

The only person really keeping the CIO sidelined is the CIO themselves. They are also the only person that can get themselves off the sideline and back into the game. The CIO needs to take the lead in all things technology. They need to step in front of every project that touches technology (including shadow IT) and offer their assistance. They shouldn’t try to derail these projects; they should offer any and all help that can be provided from the IT group.

One of the most important ways the CIO can get back in the game is to take a look at their data center(s). The data center is, arguably, one of the largest issues the sidelined CIO can address to provide additional value to the organization, especially if the data center is still being operated using old operational methods and techniques. Working on making the data center more agile, efficient and optimized can help make the CIO and IT group more of a leader in the eyes of the organization.

There’s no reason for a CIO to remain sidelined. 2014 CIO State of the CIO Survey has a few suggestions for CIO’s who find themselves in this predicament. They are:

  • Focus on building relationships across the enterprise.
  • CIO’s must take a leadership role within the organization and help drive business innovation, strategy and cultivate partnerships.
  • Ensure that every project is a business project, not a technology project.
  • Force the IT organization to become more focused on the business and the customer. Work with your clients to make sure you are able to help with their problems. Listen to what your internal and external clients are looking for and find ways to deliver on their needs.
  • Reimagine and reorganize the IT group to ensure agility and flexibility to deliver at the speed of business, not the speed of technology.
  • Take a look at your data center to make sure you are able to deliver new services quickly and efficiently. Investigate the use of cloud, converged infrastructure and mobility solutions to ensure that you’ll be able to deliver the services the organization needs today and tomorrow.

Being sidelined can be a difficult thing for a CIO (or any leader), but there are ways to get off the sideline and back into the game.

This post is brought to you by Symantec and The Transition To The Agile Data Center.

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About Eric D. Brown, D.Sc.

Eric D. Brown, D.Sc. is a data scientist, technology consultant and entrepreneur with an interest in using data and technology to solve problems. When not building cool things, Eric can be found outside with his camera(s) taking photographs of landscapes, nature and wildlife.
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