Woe the Mid-Market CIO?

Woe the Mid-Market CIO?

Companies at the big end of town “get” IT, but can the same be said for their mid-market brethren?

I have a suspicion that life's not exactly a holiday on Primrose Lane for a fair few mid-market CIOs these days. In fact I know a handful who are literally on holiday, and not necessarily by choice. Now, as a regular recipient of shonky research, and a believer that two instances don't support a "trend", I'm loath (or perhaps just chicken) to categorically state that the mid-market CIO is a beast on the brink of extinction. That said, there has been an incredible amount of, well, let's say "activity" where mid-market CIOs are either on the sending or receiving end of an "Adios, amigo".

It's time to face facts and admit that not every CIO is cut from the same managerial cloth

Those CIOs who are opting out of their own accord largely say that they've moved beyond their organization's expectations of them. In other words, these CIOs have grown and their organization hasn't. They want to be a strategic partner, but the business wants them to keep the network up and running and the printers from jamming. So they choose to look for greener — and more challenging — pastures. Some of them chose CIO roles at departmental level in larger organizations, while others will spend time in consulting, either on their own or at big firms. These CIOs will continue to grow, adding experience and competencies to their resumes that will do them in good stead in the long run. In the future many are likely to end up in the top IT spot at the big end of town locally or perhaps land a key role overseas.

For the bulk of mid-market CIOs shown the door, their route is pretty much the same. And yes, a few were never meant to sit in the CIO seat, having been given the title as a sop. It's time to face facts and admit that not every CIO is cut from the same managerial cloth.

But this missive really isn't about the ructions of mid-market CIOs — it's about the mid-market organizations they leave behind whether by default or design. Essentially these companies have said: IT doesn't matter — and not in the way our old friend Nicholas Carr meant it. By relegating IT, and therefore the CIO, to a support function and cost centre, they view IT as a necessary evil.

And that's going to come back and bite them on the arse.

If the CIO is replaced by the CFO or other manager who then gives IT nominal attention, the technology will degrade. Patchy implementations, workarounds and under-the-radar tech will be the norm. Hand IT over to an outsourcer to get it off the balance sheet, and discover how much fun it is when it takes the better part of the day to get the network back up and running.

These organizations will be consigned to the scrap heap of boom-and-bust cycles where they end up spending more to fix the dog's breakfast of technology than it would have cost to maintain it in course. And that doesn't even factor in the lost opportunities.

So this isn't a requiem for mid-market CIOs, it is a warning to mid-market CEOs. Get some vision, fast, gentlemen. Because without vision you have a tendency to run into walls and trip over things.

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