Courage Under Fire

Courage Under Fire

Boy did I hit a nerve. In almost nine years of rabbiting and rambling, I have never experienced a response like the one to my last editorial, "School's Out". There I was as I wrote it thinking that I had created a kind of Frankensteinian CIO/IT manager/IT worker, an over-the-top embodiment of all the various hard-yard stories I regularly hear from CIOs.

I figured most readers would see bits and pieces of their own circumstances and sort of sigh and say: Yep, been there, suffered that - but not necessarily that!

Seems not. In fact, it appears that like Dr Frankenstein, my creation is indeed a monster of enormous - and also pervasive - proportions. And if the whole is bigger than the sum if its parts, and if the number of e-mails and comments I received are any indicator, then we have a host of very unhappy IT campers. More importantly, we have a swag of unhappy CIOs (and if you need further proof of that, then check the rather lengthy list of CIOs checking out).

Obviously some organizations out there are doing it right, but the evidence is clear that many, many more aren't. So board members, CEOs and MDs, listen up: It's time to get a clue. Because the fact is that IT underpins almost every organization today. For some, it may be fairly rudimentary - say a network and some office productivity tools - and in these instances IT, and the head of IT (aka the IT manager), may not be a critical component of the executive team. But if IT is critical to your business, then you'd better start treating it and the IT chief as a key member of the executive team - now.

Technology in and of itself doesn't yield competitive advantage these days because any organization can be a quick follower. A strategic, entrenched CIO, with a focused and generally happy IT department, is worth their weight in gold. How is your organization going to remain competitive - or, better yet, steal a march on the competition - if it's hoppled by a stressed out, demotivated, marginalized CIO and an IT team that's feeling much the same way?

The answer quite simply is, it's not.

For too long, we've wasted too much breath and ink debating reporting structure, seats at the table and the like. It's time to stop the finger pointing and the whingeing.

CEOs and boards, the fix falls firmly in your lap. The CIO can ensure that IT runs well and can support the business, but only you as the head of the business can ensure that this will actually happen. All it takes is a little foresight and courage.

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