The worm turns

The last cover story of CIO (A New Game Plan) looked at how IT strategists are evolving into business strategists. It explored how CIOs are beginning to delve into business metrics, and not just IT measures to determine the success of IT projects. As our advisory board sees it, IT executives are getting more accountable for business results. An equally interesting trend is that business executives are becoming more accountable for IT results.

Take the case of ICICI Bank, which takes a different approach to IT projects. Its MD & CEO K.V. Kamath, tells us in this issue that in his organization, business units 'own' technology and implement it.

A major benefit of this, according to him, has been the dramatic reduction in the number of failed projects as well as a reduction in implementation time. "Since the user departments are conscious of their own overheads, it leads to further savings," he adds.

He goes on to say that the CIO's role in all this is to cut down "technological anarchy" since various user groups can end up creating systems that don't communicate with one another. "Here, a CIO is somebody who brings together and keeps in harmony the various user groups in the context of their technological needs," he observes.

A CIO I was speaking to the other day was appreciative of the banker's remarks, though he observed that if various departments in a multibusiness unit scenario did indeed own their technology, then the CIO would have an extremely difficult time in attempting to bring all of them onto a common platform -- since business unit heads would have no obligation to listen to him as their loyalties would lie more with their own units for which they are responsible and against whose performance they are measured.

I find this a scary development. Fascinating for sure, but still scary. Corporate executives scale managerial heights because the expertise they bring along is vital to an organization's growth. Whether this means that IT leaders talk business or business leaders tilt toward IT is hardly a moot point from an enterprise's point of view.

Either way, if CIOs don't step up their efforts to be a part of corporate decision-making, they may find that if they're still around, it won't be to provide their company with weapons to take on competition. It will be to take orders and put out technological fires.

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