Are You Misusing the CIO Title?

Are You Misusing the CIO Title?

A message to the CIO community from the CIO Executive Council

A message to the CIO community from the CIO Executive Council.

"A CIO should be enabling the business to grow. If all the CIO does is oversee tech systems, he or she should be renamed 'tech manager'," declared Louis Ehrlich, CIO and global VP, Strategy and Service, Global Downstream, Chevron Corporation, earlier this year on the front page of the Marketplace section of the Wall Street Journal.

"The CIO title comes with a huge opportunity and responsibility," added Marc West, CIO and group president of Commercial Markets at H&R Block. "Holding this title doesn't mean much if the CIO doesn't effectively leverage the position for the greater betterment of the company."

Strong believers in the potential of the CIO, Ehrlich and West are teaming up with fellow CIO Executive Council members to try to light a fire under complacent CIOs who may be wasting their potential and undermining their prestigious CIO titles if they find themselves obediently and contentedly serving as over-glorified IT directors, order-takers and reactive service providers. Ehrlich and West agree that operational excellence, IT/business alignment and process transformation are essential to the enterprise and core responsibilities of the CIO. But they maintain that CIOs also need to expand their focus and use their unique IT knowledge and end-to-end business view to help drive, not just enable, business strategy.

This theory is central to the "Future-State CIO" program, an effort by leading members within the CIO Executive Council to define the role at its highest value and most strategic potential, and to help the business and CIO communities achieve this potential. Launched in April 2004, the CIO Executive Council is a 500+ member-strong global, professional organization focused on advancing the CIO profession through peer-to-peer mentoring, content development and strategic outreach programs. The organization defines the "Future-State CIO" role as follows:

"The future CIO's primary focus is to drive business strategy and innovation for competitive advantage. They will apply their unique cross-enterprise view of business process, architecture and the differentiating potential of technology to steer the enterprise toward new opportunity. Rather than answering primarily to internal stakeholders, future-state CIOs will be accountable to the board and to shareholders. They will be the right hand of the CEO because their unique knowledge and perspective will be critical to a 21st Century enterprise's ability to grow."

Easier said than done, right?

Maybe. But Ehrlich, West and a number of other CIOs who have had success expanding the strategic scope and influence of their roles believe it's high time for CIOs to stop with the endless excuses. With naysayers like Nick Carr continuing to take cheap shots at CIOs and spewing disinformation about IT's value, it is astonishing how little CIOs are doing to refute Carr's claims, stand up for themselves and demonstrate, once and for all, how much IT really does matter to an organization's competitive differentiation and success.

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