by Tracy Mayor

Business Value: Beyond the IT Comfort Zone

Jun 01, 20041 min
Business IT Alignment

MeadWestvaco CIO Jim McGrane is a nontechy IT leader, and he’s proud of it. He came to Mead through business-side management jobs in high-tech and publishing. “I’m in no way implying that I’m technologically illiterate, but I’m not in love with technology,” he says.

As McGrane sees it, CIOs should focus on creating business value rather than trying to sell the benefits of technology. He breaks down this role into four major efforts:

1. Establish IT strategy.

2. Work with the executive leadership team.

3. Set IT standards and adequately explain their value to business units.

4. Ask unexpected questions to ensure IT employees don’t get too comfortable.

The first three points are standard CIO fare, but last is, well, unexpected. McGrane believes it’s crucial that CIOs think outside the norm. That might mean, for example, advocating that IT staffers not learn a particular technology, but learn instead simply to manage it on an outsourced basis. “That’s a strange proposition for managers who believe that owning assets provides control,” McGrane says, “but it creates the need to study alternatives and make a decision based on a broader view of the world.”