The relationship between CIOs and chief executives is like a strained marriage — the partners want it to work, but deliverables don’t come without resolving the issues.
The analogy was drawn by Geoff Facer, northern region sales manager for Telecom Advanced Solutions, who says he’s had meetings with five CIOs from “heavy duty organisations” in the past 10 days and that sentiment was expressed by all of them.
Today “CIOs are being driven by KPIs [key performance indicators] that are driven by business outcomes, not IT outcomes”, and while CIOs and IT departments want stability, we don’t live in a stable world, Facer told a New Zealand Computer Society event last week.
“Most CIOs want a stable 36-month roadmap, but it’s not possible.”
CIOs and IT departments want to be part of the decision-making process, not to be told to do something as a result of that process.
When it comes to external service providers such as Telecom Advanced Solutions, IBM and Unisys, “there was a time when they always talked to IT managers and IT departments, but now it’s with the CIO, the chief executive, the sales and marketing managers”.
Providers and prospective providers will analyse clients’ publicly available financial results and make recommendations along the lines of “these ratios could be improved by changing IT infrastructure or practices”.
CIO not only stands for chief information officer, it should also mean communicating information officer, Facer says.
A problem often isn’t that difficult to fix technically, but it’s a matter of someone explaining to different parties what’s needed and acting as a go-between, he says.
He also noted that the proportion of IT workers with tertiary qualifications is much higher today than when he started in the industry at Australia’s CBA Bank in the 1970s.
“People with qualifications in commerce, law etc all do some IT as part of their studies.”
With a more IT-literate workforce, the days when that cynical old sales adage “there’s margin in the mystery” (ie keep IT mysterious and complicated) could be exploited are gone, he says.