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Blog: CEOs Shape IT Archetype

Blog: CEOs Shape IT Archetype

CIOs being fired -- this always gets my attention (along with the ever-compelling "Five Things You Must Do..." titles of course).

Lots of speculation as to why, and one of the key theories was that a new CEO is in town in many of those firms. Which made me think about some research I did a few years ago on The Three Archetypes of IT which was also validated with a survey by the IT Process Institute last year.

The gist of both of these research efforts was to conclude that expectations and tolerance levels of the of the enterprise drove one of three types of IT organization -- its IT archetype. These archetypes (utility-oriented, project delivery-oriented, and competitive advantage) establish mission and purpose, as well as reporting relationship -- to CEO, COO, or CFO. They are additive -- you must do each well to be viewed (and tolerated) at the next level.

Most important -- if a CIO has one set of expectations about the role of IT and the top executives have another, it is difficult if not impossible to change from one type to the other. Further, if the utility aspects are broken, top executives have no patience for CIO ideas about new architectures or the competitive use of technology.

So a new CEO may bring a different view of IT's role -- one that doesn't match the self-image and brand of the current CIO. Hence a disconnect and a CIO departure. Worse, I believe the middle archetype is doomed in today's world -- and that those IT organizations are headed either to become utilities or become providers of competitive advantage. In that research, the middle archetype was named "Trusted Supplier" -- observed in many insurance companies and other firms with strong functional departments that carry a long list of enhancements and project demands. Why doomed? Because there is no way to satisfy all of those demands in a business-tolerable timeframe. Period. Expectations change and the projects are still running. So CIOs running that type of IT organiztion are set up to frustrate the CEO and top execs. And so they will depart or be fired as expectations go unmet and time passes.

Unfortunately CEOs don't have any conscious thought about this or how to measure or manage CIOs -- and so they boot out (or ignore) the CIO, then set the same set of irrational expectations on the next one. On the other hand, successful CIOs clarify expectations (whether utiltiy or competitive advantage) and then carefully deliver on them and market that delivery broadly and effectively.

The point of archetype definition is really self-awareness and shaping of behavior to match expectation. And knowing when there is a mismatch and it's time to go.

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