No, that’s not the outstanding balance on my Amex after a recent overseas trip (although my last statement didn’t include every last purchase, so it may well be close). Nope, what that big old number represents is the combined IT spending power of the 257 CIOs who participated in the State of the CIO survey, this month’s cover story. You gotta admit that’s a fair chunk of change.

But there are people out there who claim it is not yours (CIOs, that is) to spend.

Yesiree, every time some two-bit analyst wants to grab a 64-point headline, or some industry observer with all of six weeks experience selling PCs to primary schools opts to opine, or some MD of an IT company fronts up at a lunch packed with businesspeople, they give the CIO the boot and trot out the “general executive”, “the business decision-maker” or the “C-Level” exec as the person with the power, the glory and the IT chequebook.

As Tonto would say: “They speak with forked tongue, kemosabe.” Well, maybe not forked tongue, maybe Novocained tongue. Because CEOs do not buy technology, CFOs do not buy technology, department heads do not buy technology — organisations buy technology. And an organisation buys technology because it needs to process information; but all the information in the world isn’t worth a tinker’s damn if it’s jerry-built and all over the place.

The point here — not to the CIOs reading this, but to your CIO naysayers — is that it’s been yonks since IT departments, and the CIOs who lead them, have issued “do it my way” edicts from atop some IT Mount Olympus. Business today runs on technology and every technology decision affects the business for good or for bad; that’s why IT and business must — and do — work together. IT is not the purview of one or the other, but it does need a gatekeeper. It needs someone who can oversee architecture, ensure integration, have a strategic plan, establish IT governance, and, yes, even keep the light on — in other words a chief information officer.

For those out their who believe the CIO is not the “decision-maker”, that they have no purchasing clout, then I suggest you read “Bring IT Back Home” on page 56. In the story newly appointed executive vice president and CIO of Washington Mutual Jerry Gross opts to bring IT back in-house at the Seattle-based bank. (Gross, by the way, spent some time in Australia where his claim to fame was that he outsourced Westpac’s IT.) Here’s why:

. . . first, Gross says, he needed to get his house in order. Most technology development and strategy had been distributed to the business units, which had in turn further outsourced some of their IT to yet more providers, including IBM and Accenture. In effect, Gross says, there were a number of players internally and externally providing strategy and architecture advice to the company, ultimately fragmenting the IT department and the company.

That should scare the bejesus out of anyone who thinks business unit heads should control IT spending.

However, if you 257 CIOs out there don’t really have control of your IT budget as some suggest, then please send it to me — there are a couple of things I want to buy (such as, the Seychelles) and that $2,719,502,000.00 would get me started just fine.

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