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Who's In Charge?

Who's In Charge?

According to the State of the CIO survey, CIO’s are increasingly responsibile for business strategy and not just technology

In part 1 of CIO's exclusive State of the CIO survey, published in our April issue, we looked at the overarching results of the feedback we received from 257 CIOs and senior IT executives. Last month, in part 2, we explored CIOs' best - and worst - working relationships. In part 3, we take a look at CIOs' key responsibilities.

When Holden began its indirect procurement project, so clearly replete with potential for upending many of the company's processes and systems, CIO Julie Fahey immediately swung into communications mode.

At Holden, Fahey says, the CIO is very much responsible for providing the leadership around strategy for the company's information systems and services spend. That's the main reason she sits at the executive table where the strategic decisions are made and the operational reviews conducted. And a big and growing part of that strategic leadership entails educating the executive about the enterprisewide business process-enabling capability of IT, and creating in their minds the linkages between business processes and the information systems that enable their better integration for improved efficiencies in the business. So Fahey says she spends an increasing amount of her time making sure executives understand that IT is an enabler and that without defining the business process first, they won't necessarily get "bang for their buck on the IT stuff".

"In our indirect procurement project what we're actually looking at is the management processes, the operational processes and therefore the systems that will drive a single approach to managing our indirect commodities, services and products that we buy across the company," Fahey says. "So we sit down at a steering committee meeting and we talk about things like what is going on inside a vehicle operation versus what is going on inside the engineering, manufacturing and the experimental warehouse where we are purchasing for vehicle design. My role is to get up and explain why there is a common process. We might be talking about different products, different lead times, different suppliers, but actually we are procuring, and the business process to support all of those is the same process. Therefore the logic is that there is absolutely no reason why it can't be a single system."

Clearly that's the kind of plain talk executives at Holden appreciate. Fahey says she gets "a lot of heads nodding in the right direction" when she talks that way because the view is that she is talking in English rather than in "techo-speak".

A big part of effective business leadership is communicating in terms that people can understand, Fahey says.

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