Some CIOs look to be heading for the stratosphere, but even the best placed might find the next couple of years largely about the mundane and routine. The chance to shine as a visionary and strategic genius comes later.
CIOs should expect to do some hard slog on operations and infrastructure issues before they get to dream about innovation and strategy. Flexibility and adaptability should become their watchwords as they strive to weather the coming storms.
And the first thing they should do, the experts agree, however mundane and uninteresting the task, is to get their IT house in order. Until the entrances are secured, the walls and roof patched and the windows scrubbed, it isn’t the time to upgrade the furniture and build that luxury studio extension.
Technisource Management Services president John Baschab, who has recently completed co-authoring the second edition of a book examining the symptoms and causes of waste, inefficiency, and underperformance in typical IT departments, The Executive’s Guide to Information Technology, says you only need to look at the amount of ink being consumed on issues like data centre and power management, reliability, disaster recovery, compliance, virtualisation and server compaction to see the writing on the near-future wall.
“All of these were probably once considered pretty mundane operation and infrastructure issues, [but] I do think we can spend the next couple of years cleaning up a bunch of that stuff, because as we talk about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs, if e-mail is not working, no one wants to talk to about aligning IT with the business,” Baschab says.
CIOs are in the business of simultaneously providing strategic value; aligning IT with the business and providing utility value (i.e. making sure infrastructure works 100 per cent of the time). But until they have achieved the latter, Baschab says, there is little point thinking overmuch about strategic matters.
“If I were giving CIOs some advice, I would say nail that stuff at the bottom of the hierarchy first,” Baschab says.
Mike Cartoscelli, a senior IT Administrator with Opsware, who says he has seen both very good CIOs and very, very poor ones, believes the greatest ability a CIO will have in the near future is the capacity to quickly adapt to the speed that technology is changing business.
In his view, being able to clean out legacy applications that suck up too many resources to stay viable, and then embracing new technology, sometimes even bleeding edge technology, will be critical. “In today’s society, people want instant gratification in their lives and utilise technology to do it. Blackberrys. Google. PDAs. Online collaboration tools. Everything is geared to present data to you ASAP,” he says.
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