Operational Experts place a huge emphasis on their project management and execution skills, and their IT department's primary mission during the past year was to cut costs. These CIOs thrive in enterprises where the pressure to deliver IT systems on time, under budget and with full user acceptance is high.
With a strong technology focus, deep understanding of the business and a commitment to getting things done, these business-leading IT executives find nothing more satisfying than throwing their all into meeting the challenges of the business head on.
Operational Experts are likely to work in organizations that still place a premium on cutting costs even as they make addressing business strategy an imperative; here the Operational CIO's strong project management and execution skills are highly valued. An operationally focused CIO is likely to spend the bulk of his or her time overseeing technology execution and maintenance, managing personnel and guarding those company finances allocated to IT. They are likely to understand business processes and operations intimately. Most likely their enterprise prizes nothing higher than their ability to deliver IT systems on time and under budget, while winning the hearts and minds of users.
And that is certain to keep him or her busy, busy, busy. "I'm full-on this week," one says. "I can spare you 10 minutes, but not for another fortnight," says another.
Not that the Operational Expert will necessarily always have been focused on operations and partnering with the business — they may well have worn other hats at different times. Many have become CIOs after spending time in consulting (44 percent), in business operations other than IT (39 percent) or in administration (30 percent).
For instance Garry Whatley, CIO for Corporate Express Australia, came from an accounting background and says it gave him an excellent grounding in understanding the financial side of the business. "I've also done a marketing degree and once had control of our marketing area here — I was actually CIO and chief of marketing here at the same time," Whatley says.
"It was interesting, because the challenge in both of those roles was very similar: they were both corporate roles and dealing with a decentralized business, so they were very much alike, although coming from different angles. We use technology heavily in our marketing roles to get marketing business done and we use marketing heavily to market the IT side, so it was actually a pretty good mix."
Greg Russell, CIO for Baptist Community Services (BCS) NSW & ACT, exemplifies a different strain of experience. Russell shored up his IT skills during the past decade with long stints as a consultant. "I'm an old fart: I've got 30 years' experience in IT. I spent most of the 1990s consulting, almost by necessity, after I was in a car accident," Russell says. "I think it gave me some tools and some experience: I was consulting to Westpac, Toyota Finance, RSL COM and a few others like that."
Operational CIOs rely heavily on their ability to communicate with business users and key stakeholders about what they need from IT
According to the State of the CIO 2007 survey, Operational CIOs are comfortable with and spend a lot of time in interactions with corporate CXOs and business executives, and on making strategic systems and business planning decisions. They are expected to hire and manage staff, and interact with IT vendors, outsourcers and service providers. And sometimes they are expected to do all of these things on an ongoing basis after first transforming the IT organization from humdrum performer to model of efficiency and effectiveness.
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