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The Optimal Role for the CIO

November 16, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

Deloitte has given us food for thought in an article “The Four Faces of the CIO”.

Fortunately, they are not talking about a devious executive. Instead, they are talking about four different key roles that every CIO has to play.

The roles are:

  • Catalyst: As a catalyst, the CIO acts as a credible, enterprisewide change agent, instigating innovations that lead to new products or services; delivering IT capabilities in radically new ways; or significantly improving operations in IT and beyond. Catalysts have significant political capital and are able to enlist and align executive stakeholders. Their relentless focus on disruptive innovation and cross-functional teaming allows them to lead transformational change in IT and the business at large.
  • Strategist: “The CIO’s primary objective as strategist is to maximize the value delivered across all IT investments. The strategist has deep business knowledge and can engage as a credible partner, advising the business on how technology can enhance existing business capabilities or provide new ones. “The strategist also keeps the business apprised [sic] of distinctive IT capabilities that can drive revenue, create new opportunities, or mitigate and navigate risks and adverse events.”
  • Technologist: “As a technologist, the CIO is responsible for providing a technical architecture that increases business agility by managing complexity, supports highly efficient operations (to keep costs low), and is flexible and extendable enough to meet future business needs. Technologists also continually scan the horizon for new technologies, rigorously analyze and test those with promise, and then select the ones most apt to achieve enterprise architecture objectives (efficiency, agility, simplification, and innovation).”
  • Operator: “As an operator, the CIO oversees the reliable day-to-day delivery of IT services, applications, and data. Operators manage the department, and hire, develop, and lead IT staff. They institute service level agreements with IT customers and ensure performance targets for IT services are achieved. They maintain transparent IT cost models and charge the business appropriately for IT services. Operators also source technology, services, and staff, and govern those third-party relationships. Among the biggest challenges for operators are protecting the organization against cyber attacks and ensuring regulatory compliance.”

In this world of dynamic and business model-shattering technological change, it is essential that the CIO take her rightful place as a business leader. The Strategist and Catalyst roles are of massive importance if an organization is to succeed.

This is recognized in a survey by Deloitte of where CIO’s actually spend their time vs. where they want to spend their time:

  • 36% as an operator, compared to a desired level of 14%
  • 43% as either strategist of catalyst, compared to a desired level of 71%

I believe that boards should be asking the CIO, and whoever she reports to, where she spends her time. If the dominant portion is not as Strategist and Catalyst, they should ask why not.

Risk officers should consider whether there is a risk to the business if the CIO is predominantly a passive Operator, and the CAE should consider how the situation can be improved.

I welcome your views.

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  1. Alan Proctor
    November 19, 2013 at 7:25 PM | #1

    Does this description of the CIO’s roles provide justification for the CISO/CSO to report to the position responsible for managing enterprise risk (rather than the CIO)?

  1. November 16, 2013 at 11:58 AM | #1

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