For ages it seems, CIOs have argued for 'a seat at the business decision table.' The character of the argument has ranged from a tightly structured logic grounded in facilitating the achievement of business success to - frankly - whining.
As one examines this plea, several considerations with regard to a seat at the table are worth examining:
The purpose of a seat at the table is twofold - first and most obviously is for the CIO to deeply understand business strategy and direction so as to better guide technology implementation.
o Second, and equally important, is to infuse an understanding of technology and its capabilities (and yes, its limitations) into the discussion about business strategy and direction. When business executives discuss their market opportunity and direction, they make implicit assumptions about the capabilities of their technology to add value in the marketplace. By carefully understanding and reviewing the potential for technology to open strategic doors for the enterprise, business leaders are better positioned to make profitable strategic choices.
QualificationsTo add the value suggested above, the CIO must be in a position to both understand the business deeply and to understand technology deeply. Understanding technology has many facets ranging from - for example - the current and future technical platform of the company, its technology risk appetite and related business continuity and disaster recovery investment platform, techniques for data management and emerging disruptive technologies that, if prudently applied, can and will change the competitive and internal landscape. Related are the current and planned capabilities of IT staff to handle current support and necessary evolution. This is a tall order! But the advantages of this level of connectivity between IT and the business are massive.
OK - let's admit it - technologists talk a funny language. It is one sprinkled with acronyms and difficult to understand concepts, and yet the translation of that gobbledygook into business terms is precisely what is expected from the world class CIO and his/her team.
The vision thing
The goal of business-IT collaboration is to create and manage into realization a deep and rich shared vision. This vision, at its best, encompasses business direction, risks and contingency strategies, and technical platform direction to realize the business vision. Included in the vision is a view of how business processes in place in the organization will evolve (either internally or externally), and the business and technical imperatives related thereto.
Realizing all of the benefits of granting a 'seat at the table' requires a giant in the CIO role! The issues are universal, and encompass all of the challenges associated with legacy environments that may not be well documented or understood to establishing the operating discipline to take on a task and to deliver or exceed expectations. It is fair to say that these issues exist to some degree in all companies, and are challenging regardless of company size or industry. It is however equally fair to say that the challenges can be systematically addressed through wise business collaboration, directed IT management and a clear sense of process discipline throughout the organization.
Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.