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Blog: CIO as Soothsayer Extraordinaire

Blog: CIO as Soothsayer Extraordinaire

You all know the line by now: as a "Future State CIO" you should be preparing for a major expansion in your role as your focus shifts from internal operations to a preoccupation - nay obsession - with business strategy and innovation.

The CIO Executive Council (CEC) has for some time been warning CIOs to prepare for a tectonic shift. Where most now spend the bulk of their time on operations, CEC warns, Future State CIOs should expect to devote most of their time and energy to understanding their company's markets, customers and competitors, and on developing and implementing ideas that will improve corporate performance.

But does that mean Future State CIOs should be also be expected to predict the future? Would lessons in prophecy and star-gazing be an asset? Could a CIO enhance their contribution to the business by getting really, really good at chicken-gizzard reading? Should they be sourcing and then making regular visits to a really reliable modern day Delphic Oracle? Or a Cassandra, whose advice they actually listen to? Or to put it another way, is there any way a Future State CIO can successfully expand their focus and turn their unique IT knowledge and end-to-end understanding of the business towards the fostering of and even the driving of business strategy, without also becoming a bit of a soothsayer?

"There's no doubt that CIOs have a business function at the board table now," asked one poster on a business forum recently. "But are they now being pushed beyond technology matters and building business cases - into the role of predicting business trends from information they can gather thru various technological means?"

The responses were varied and nuanced: "I would have to ask the question why anyone would think that hasn't always been a part of the CIO function?" one commenter replied. "As a CIO you're in charge of providing the direction and the vision of the Information Office of the company. You can't very well provide vision if you can't see the road ahead of you. That's a given.

"So - the real question to me is - why would you even consider a CIO who did not have a touch of Crystal Ball Gazer? I would think it to be a mandatory portion of their job, if not the most important function they have. A company which does not have its officers look to the future has none."

But another poster saw it somewhat differently. "The role of a CIO in today's organizations should not be related with his/her competence of predicting business trends as if he/she was a sort of business magician.

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