Staying Relevant as a CIO

relevantI received an email this week pointing me to a nice article over on The Enterprisers Project titled “CIO’s: Stay Relevant With This Advice From 7 Veteran IT Executives“. The article leads to a downloadable PDF that describes a roundtable discussion between the following IT veterans:

  • Cynthia Stoddard, NetApp CIO
  • John Marcante, Vanguard CIO and Managing Director
  • Peter Buonora, BJ’s Wholesale Club Enterprise Architect
  • Eamon O’Kelly, Vice President of IT for Scheider Electric’s North America
  • Rajesh Wunnava, Senior Director of Global Information Services, Warner Music Group
  • Curt Carver, Vice Chancellor and CIO of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia
  • Cliff Tamplin, Consultant and Former Vice President of Technology Support and Risk Management, Hyatt Hotels Corporation

Some of the highlights  from the discussion are provided below along with my comments.

Cynthia Stoddard –  I think a CIO needs to question their own operating style. If you don’t willingly jump in and think about how you are going to keep IT relevant from multiple perspectives (business and IT), then you will be relegated to that ‘back office’ type of CIO and eventually risk having you and your organization minimized.

It is refreshing to see a CIO say this. I’ve been saying the same thing for years here on the blog (see my post titled The Diminshing Role of the CIO and IT as an example). If the CIO wants to be relevant in the future, they’ve got to make IT relevant to the business by working on business issues…not technology issues.

John Marcante – start by partnering with a tech-savvy business leader who is eager to innovate. Measure the value you generate together through time and create some healthy competition among other leaders.

If you, as the CIO or IT leader, are having trouble showing the value your team can bring to the business, finding a group within the organization and kicking off some projects together may be a way to start building IT’s reputation as a business team and not a technology team.

Cliff Tamplin – people always talk about IT being off in its own little world. But in most organizations, there are an awful lot of departments that are also off in their own little worlds. So it’s not a question of building a relationship with a single “the business” because at most companies I’ve worked at, there is no “the business.”

I’m guilty of saying that IT is in its own world, as are a lot of you. Cliff is right…every group is in their own world unless they force themselves out into the worlds of others. That’s what the CIO must do…pave the way into the other groups to make sure conversations are occurring and that each team within the organization knows how easily it is to reach out and work with the IT group.

Rajesh Wunnava – You’ve got to get out of the model where your business partners brief you on things and then they go away and come back after three months and expect that everything is working perfectly.  Those days are gone. Innovation is a messy process. It’s not a perfect process so you’ve got to engage your business partners actively.

I love this. It is exactly the mindset that everyone IT are order takers. The IT group needs to be out front leading the way with innovation and helping other groups within the organization use technology to solve their problems.

Peter Buonora – …as long as that person is a leader in their organization who is going to lead the organization through technology change and driving the right business value, it doesn’t matter what the title is.

While Peter was talking about the CTO, CIO and BIO (Business Information Officer) roles. the same can be said for any role. In my opinion, this is one of the drivers for the CMO vs CIO debate we’ve been seeing for a while. In many instances, the CMO has taken the lead in driving change and business value using technology.

Curt Carver – The services have to run flawlessly before you move into business process innovation. Once you get a foothold there and that starts cranking, you can start moving into more strategic types of conversations

There’s a lot to say about this one. If you as the CIO can’t deliver an IT group and IT services that just work, how will the rest of the organization accept you as someone who should be involved in the larger, big picture conversations? In order to move away from being operationally focused, the CIO must show that they can actually do the operational aspects of IT well.

Eamon O’Kelley – Unless we really know how they make money, then I don’t think we can really engage in the conversation and push our technology model to build their business.

Eamon’s comment was in response to a question directed at him regarding how he had recently gone ‘out into the field’ to talk to clients.  I love this comment too…it shows the need for the CIO and IT group to understand the business and the clientele of the business in order to truly deliver the right technology solutions.

The roundtable discussion is a great look into how a few IT veterans are helping their organizations to deliver value and turn the IT group into something more than an operational group.    Although accessing the roundtable discussion requires providing your email address, I’d highly recommend you jump over and download it as there are some great insights from these IT veterans.