by Byron Connolly

Order-taker mentality putting CIOs in a ‘weak position’

May 21, 20143 mins
CareersIT Leadership

The notion of IT as a service provider is an outdated concept, and an ‘order-taker mentality’ no longer works as companies become more digitised.

This is the view of US-based Gartner CIO research analyst Tina Nunno, who last year published a book, The Wolf in CIO’s Clothing, about power, politics and leadership in IT.

Nunno – who was speaking this week at the Gartner Summit in Sydney – said unfortunately the old service provider mentality has put many CIOs and IT shops in a very weak position where they essentially do what they are told.

“The stance that IT executives have taken up until this point is very weak because if I am the service provider, someone else is in charge,” Nunno said.

Nunno said team work is required if ‘digitisation’ initiatives inside organisations are to succeed.

“It requires creativity and innovation. It isn’t about I go to my CIO and I tell them what they want because often-times it hasn’t been created yet,” said Nunno.

Team work is often difficult to achieve because most companies and public sector entities are under pressure, and they tend to ‘go a little bit dark’, she said.

“It’s very natural; when we are under tremendous pressure, the politicking tends to go up; people either go with the self-defensive mode or in the worst case scenario, they go on the offensive. They’ll try to preserve themselves by taking other people out and throwing blame on others,” she said.

“Oftentimes IT is in a blame-taking position, and service providers are very easy to blame. I really believe we have to evolve past this as quickly as possible.”

Nunno believes that if CIOs and their teams are willing to go to the dark side to create change, they will help drag the entire organisation back into the light.

The move to cloud infrastructure models where CIOs become ‘brokers’ of IT services gives them more power, said Nunno.

“We’re allowing vendors to do much of the commodity work in the enterprise and we are not wasting internal IT talent on commodity services. We are letting vendors do that which is perfectly fine.

“Part of being strong and powerful in the organisation is focusing the limited time and talent we have on that which matters the most,” she said.

Removing the CIO role

In recent months, some organisations have removed the CIO role. The Australian government said it wouldn’t be replacing former CIO Glenn Archer, and just last week Andrew Wiles left Vodafone as CIO with his role being absorbed back into the technology team.

Nunno believes the CIO role is undergoing an evolution where it is becoming too large for one individual due to growth in IT, hence the creation of other positions such as chief data and chief digital officers.

“In this transition period, I think what we are sometimes seeing is the CIO role going away and other roles taking over other components of it. It doesn’t mean it’s becoming less important, in many ways I think it’s because the role is actually growing and it’s being handled by a team.

“Where it ends up, nobody knows yet. But I think one thing that is true is IT will only become more important in enterprises, not less.”

Follow Byron Connolly on Twitter:@ByronConnolly

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