In the second and final part of this series on the history and future of the chief information officer, we ask if CIOs need to become process and information architects to drive innovation inside their organisations.
IT has fast become a vital part of the internal mechanics of most enterprises. This has made the chief information officer’s role more important than ever as the quality of technology implementations often has a direct result on an organisation’s revenue potential and can even make or break reputations.
So does this mean that CIOs will need to morph into chief innovation and operation officers in the coming years? John Roberts, research vice-president of Gartner’s CIO and executive leadership research team, says there are a few possibilities.
These include IT simply being an engine room to run data centres, crunch numbers and maintain applications; or the IT organisation becomes a service global provider and plays a larger role in creating process and information architectures, even leading business process design, he says.
“Another scenario is where everyone accesses IT [from the cloud]. In that future, the CFO, for example, can simply access software-as-a-service and run everything from the cloud so the role of IT almost becomes a broker for these services.
“The answer is likely to be somewhere in the middle,” Roberts says.
Gartner’s Roberts says that an executive at a utility company in Singapore is known as the manager or process and innovation, who still runs IT, but is looking at opportunities for improvement through new business models, which are enabled by IT.
Allan Davies is the long-time Asia-Pacific CIO at global logistics systems supplier, Dematic. He says of all executives within an organisation, the CIO is one who – in more cases than not – has an intimate understanding of the business process across the organisation and is in a good position to provide some guidance.
However, he doesn’t see the CIO becoming the “information architect” because the CIO doesn’t own the business processes.
“My experience has shown that unless the process owner takes responsibility for the automation, they can be reluctant to use the end product as they see it as an IT solution,” he says. “CIOs can help business process owners challenge the status quo, challenge them to think past their immediate requirement and think long term.
“The fault many people make is they try to automate a manual process thinking that the automation is going to fix all the associated issues with the manual process; this is where the CIO can assist.”
Peter Nevin, who has been a CIO for more than 20 years, agrees that we are seeing a greater degree of automation of business processes across many organisations, which means CIOs need to become process architects.
He says the CIO should be affecting business processes and client interactions inside the organisation and “if they haven’t got that sorted out by now, they probably shouldn’t be there.”
But the influence of the CIO on these things will depends on a company’s size, segment and industry, says Nevin.
“The health industry, for example is very customer-focused, [but in] a knowledge working industry it is very difficult for the CIO to get to a point where they affect the client relationship because that’s what the knowledge worker does.”
There has always been a need for CIOs to be involved in business and process development and strategy and every new generation of managers needs to “learn the lessons all over again,” says IT industry analyst, Graeme Philipson.
“This whole idea of IT and business alignment is a journey, not a destination – no-one ever gets there,” he says. “There is always this divide between IT and business and if an organisation with different personalities and people bridge that gap to a greater or lesser extent but it’s always there.”
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