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A Pivotal Role

A Pivotal Role

Part of the CIO's role is to consider enterprise-wide risk exposures and establish a risk management program - to minimise vulnerabilities and to protect the enterprise, its customers and its shareholders. Longer term, a sound business-driven IT architecture will ensure the enterprise has the right technical base to scale up critical business initiatives, especially those that cross business unit boundaries.

Imperative 4: Organise - Orchestrate for a high performing 'IS Lite' organisation. Relentless IT budgetary pressures make CIO survival dependent on effective supply-side management. Supply-side management includes managing multiple sources of supply to get value for money, while managing IS's capability to meet business needs. The role requires organising, delivering and measuring.

CIOs need to organise to truly become a high performing IS organisation. The term IS Lite is used to describe a focused and high-value-adding IS organisation. It is likely to be "lighter" than its predecessors, with many infrastructure services provided by external service providers, on the one hand, but business-facing processes and applications managed by business units, on the other hand.

No matter how "lite" the IS organisation, though, six key roles remain critical. The first is to be a professional services organisation. Configure the IS organisation to deliver cost-effective services. Attract, nurture and sustain people and resources. Manage resources prudently, balancing cost/growth initiatives and ensure succession planning is in place.

Imperative 5: Deliver - Provide cost-effective, timely and risk-managed services. While CIOs are often hired for their business acumen these days, they are usually fired because of a failure - or perceived failure - to deliver on a set of expectations. The message here is deliver, deliver, deliver and ensure you are perceived as delivering against expectations.

Build (or provide access to) well-targeted capabilities for agility and low cost - the third key role. Set demanding timetables to deliver value. Ensure business continuity and security arrangements are in place. Implement disciplined and quality-based program and project management. Source IT services strategically and manage partnerships and alliances effectively.

Imperative 6: Measure - Know where you stand and why. CIOs need to link IT metrics to business goals and performance. For example, the "IT dashboard" at the global financial institution ING helps focus management attention on the comparative performance of IT. The objective is to periodically assess IT's contribution to ING's process of value creation, provide early warnings on technology-related operational risk and identify areas for IT-enabled operational and financial improvement. The IT dashboard provides ING with more transparency on IT's contribution to the value creation process and is embedded in ING's overall-reporting infrastructure. By being coupled with ING's medium-term planning process, it provides clear links to financial and management accounting reports.

Tracking and communicating the business value of the IS organisation and its IT-enabled investments is part of what CIOs need to do - and reinforce - every day. At one level this means ensuring a benefits-realisation process is in place and that most of the ownership of benefits delivery is with the business. At the other end, assessing and communicating the total cost of ownership is today taken as a given.

Increased levels of sophistication also mean that IS organisations need to implement and continually assess service-level agreements. And business managers increasingly require - and expect - some form of real-time executive dashboard.

These six imperatives have real implications for CIO agendas, particularly as they relate to different types of enterprise environments.

Emphasise different imperatives in three different business environments. In my column in the June issue of CIO, I introduced three different business environments identified in Gartner's major study of business and CIO trends. The three environments are fighting for survival, maintaining competitiveness, and breaking away. For the CIO, these three environments each have a different set of priorities and focus areas. It would probably be disastrous for a CIO to follow a breaking away strategy in an enterprise that's fighting for survival.

For example, the lead imperative in an enterprise that's fighting for survival needs a CIO to build credibility. The breaking away strategy, though, is to focus on guiding the executive to new business models. Similarly, the strategise imperative in an enterprise that's fighting for survival is about reducing business costs, whereas for breaking away enterprises it is more about investing for innovation and growth.

The key is to know your enterprise environment, know your enterprise and know your business. Know the business cycles and be able to anticipate them. And take the time to really get to know your executive colleagues as individuals.

Dr Marianne Broadbent is group vice president and Gartner Fellow, and global head of research for Gartner's CIO Executive Programs.

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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