A Pivotal Role

A Pivotal Role

To effectively deliver on the CIO's six imperatives - lead, anticipate, strategise, organise, deliver, measure - CIOs need to really know their enterprise and their business environment.

The leadership role of the CIO is being forced up a level by the increasing fusion of business and IT. CIOs increasingly take a top-level view of the enterprise and act as the pivot point between the business and IT.

Today's stakeholders include executive colleagues, board members, business units, business partners, IS staff, customers, external service providers and external agencies, such as regulators - and more. Their interests range from long-term priorities to day-to-day operations and they hold divergent views about what IS should do in most areas. A key part of the CIO's role is to educate and inform these stakeholders so that their expectations are reasonable and mutually agreed. This leadership and coaching role is now top of CIO agendas. The evidence from 620 CIO participants in Gartner's 1800 member Executive Programs 2003 CIO Agenda Survey is that in order to achieve this role, CIOs need to deliver on three demand side imperatives (lead, anticipate and strategise) and three supply side imperatives (organise, deliver and measure).

These imperatives enable CIOs to both deliver critical services today while positioning for future growth.

Imperative 1: Lead - Bridge business and technology. CIOs now have to behave more like CEOs. The "lead" imperative releases the real power of IT-enabled business initiatives, by bridging business and technology communities. CIOs can do this by knowing and engaging key decision-makers. Look for opportunities to support your peers and to exercise your business judgement. Volunteer for assignments that will demonstrate your deep business perspective. Have a clear understanding of the key people you need to influence and find ways to support them. Finally, conduct frequent peer reviews and set up formal and informal channels to get feedback and business intelligence.

Guide the board and top executives about how IT can enable the business. At an international automotive parts company, the corporate CIO was promoted to report directly to the CEO and be part of the Executive Council. The Executive Council now better understands how IT enables business strategies, rather than viewing IT as a cost centre.

Implement effective IT governance. For example, IT at Old Mutual South Africa (OMSA), has gone through three major phases - high business-unit independence, to high dependence on central IT in the mid-1990s, and most recently, to IT and business interdependence. OMSA's management team now better understands where IT governance cooperation makes sense and where business units should be free to act independently.

Communicate business imperatives to the IS organisation. IS must be able to link its performance metrics and appraisals to the enterprise's strategic direction.

Imperative 2: Anticipate - it's up to you to sense key trends. Volatile times increase the importance of anticipation and the need to better synchronise supply and demand. "Anticipate" involves sensing key trends by tracking business cycles and investment trends along side technology and competitor trends. At the enterprise level, CIOs need to really understand and anticipate critical business drivers. They need to use their "political sense" to know who sets agendas and why, and their "cultural sense" to understand their people, their values and belief systems.

Agility requires a "sense-and-respond" strategy based on a set of articulated and agreed assumptions. CIOs play a key role in tracking, checking and rechecking these assumptions. Knowing when these assumptions are tracking as you expect - or are wavering - is a key part of being able to respond quickly. It enables the business to work faster and smarter as more of a real-time enterprise that does not get blind-sided

Imperative 3: Strategise - Shape informed demand to better synchronise business and IT. You can do this by envisaging ways IT can enable the business to achieve growth and profitability. See your role as shaping informed expectations of both business peers and the IS organisation. This is all part of the "coaching" CIOs need to do today. If this is done well, there is more likely to be a real partnership approach between business and technology executives and managers. Investment approaches will be well synchronised. There will be enterprise-wide funding and charging strategies that support desirable behaviours.

Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.

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