With a few exceptions a typical CIO is still judged on how well he manages the IT budget and the associated service. While there is no ISO definition as to what a CIO does, the reality is that the role of IT manager and CIO are converging.
Certain troubling trends have emerged that will ensure that this convergence happens sooner rather than later. Firstly, CIOs are judged on cost management rather than in their contribution to business value. More and more of the new technology spend lies beyond the influence of the CIO, and most if not all of that is at the interesting end of IT – innovation. This leaves the CIO to manage the datacentre and user devices.
Yes, someone has to manage technology assets, but we also need leadership, firstly to inspire your staff to evolve beyond carbon-based manifestations of ITIL processes, and secondly to help your firm survive in an increasingly cruel and volatile global market.
If you are not already a digital leader, are you the man for the job? Beyond a certain age, the answer is most likely no. The chances are that you are so wired for managing risk and processes that a transition into the world of risk and passion is too hard.
Younger IT chiefs have the opportunity to steer themselves into a leadership position. It is simply a case of acquiring the competencies and letting it be known that you are doing so. If your organisation decides to clamp down on your leadership aspirations then move on. If you manage to convince your board that they need a digital leader as well as an IT manager, then go out and appoint someone to take over your role, or outsource what you can in order to free yourself up for more proactive endeavours.
So what is to become of you if you are above that ‘certain age’? I see a couple of opportunities for those who are unlikely to make it as a genuine digital leader.
First is the digital coach: as technology remains both complex and highly visible, there is a role for someone to help those on the users’ side of the fence understand the associated issues and opportunities. In my view many business leaders and politicians are in desperate need of such a service.
Then there is the kingmaker: while you may not make it into the boardroom, you have an opportunity to identify colleagues who could be the IT function’s boardroom ambassador. Grooming a future boss may be one of the smartest investments you make.
Ade McCormack is an advisor on IT value and leadership. Follow him at itbeaconblog.com