CIOs Don’t Just Run The IT Department

BrandPost By Gary Marshall, Sungard Contributor
Apr 09, 20154 mins
IT Strategy

As a CIO, business now comes before the IT department.

If you as a CIO believe that your job is running the IT department, I have news for you: you’re dead wrong.

In the past, CIOs could get away with that approach … more or less. They could stay in the background and keep things humming so that the rest of the company could get business done.

Today, that just won’t cut it. We have to step up to a new role as CIOs … one that we should have been doing all along:

To implement technology solutions that improve business performance.

There it is. One line. But to really grasp what it means, it may help to break it apart:

“To implement” … that’s change management.

“technology solutions” … that’s technology management.

“that improve business performance” … that’s performance management.

The bottom line is that my new role as a CIO isn’t internally focused. I can’t hide behind technology anymore. I can’t have the title of “CIO” but really act as an IT manager safely walled up in my little tech silo. I am part of the business, and I have to engage with the rest of the business and provide strategic value to it through the use of technology. The good of the business is my primary concern. Technology is simply a means to that end.

That being said, let’s take a look at what we as CIOs need to be doing in our new role to make that happen.

Change management Technology is expanding faster today than ever before. Businesses need to leverage that technology to stay in the game. That means constant migrations, transformations, implementations … in a word, change.

IT can’t pass the buck on this: we have to be at the heart and center of every change management initiative that involves technology. We need to participate in strategy, planning, communication, execution, and leadership. We must evaluate how effective transitions have been, and provide training wherever necessary to ensure overall success and sustainability. (I always encourage IT folk to look to Lean Six Sigma for inspiration, tools, and techniques in change management.)

Technology management Because technology is expanding so rapidly, CIOs have a greater responsibility than ever to manage corporate technology solutions. Technology solutions may involve business process changes, automation, self-service, and business model adjustments. Key technology management questions include:

  • What technologies are we implementing? Why?
  • What technologies are we avoiding? Why?
  • What upgrades are we adopting? Why?
  • What upgrades are we skipping? Why?

The “Why?” is critical in every case: IT must justify its decisions within the total business context. In my opinion, CIOs would do well to require a SWOT (Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats) analysis done on every piece of technology being considered. After all, it isn’t only efficiencies that can scale with the use of technology: inefficiencies can scale as well. It all depends on whether the technology was chosen wisely or not.

Performance management Finally, CIOs need to start measuring the results of their activities to see whether they were effective or not. Business metrics could include P&L statements, balance sheets, earnings per share, customer retention figures, revenue analyses, cost and management accounts, etc.

It’s time we as CIOs started talking the language of the rest of the organization. We will never be respected at the conference table until we do.

Perhaps it’s time for a new name If we have a new role as CIO, perhaps we should also rename our whole department. Forget calling it “Information Technology.” As the above points prove, we’re about a lot more than information these days. Let’s start calling ourselves “Business Technology.” And remember …

That’s business first, technology second.

This article was originally posted on Forbes.