by CIO Staff

Reader Q&A, Office of the CIO

Mar 01, 20043 mins
IT Leadership

Q: The notion of an Office of the CIO may be appealing, but it addresses the symptom rather than the cause. The root problem is functional consolidation of “computer people.” If the OCIO concept is effective, then why don’t insurance companies have a CMO (chief mathematics officer) to which actuarial, finance and accounting people report?

A: You do see chief mathematics officers?they are called CFOs. Most companies centralize staff functions within the organizations of the CFO, CAO or COO (including functions such as accounting, finance, strategy, risk management, human resources and facilities) rather than letting each line organization duplicate these functions in their entirety. There are two reasons for doing this?fiduciary and efficiency. However, in separating these staff functions, there is always the risk that line organizations’ accountability and authority become muddled and diluted. It is the responsibility of those running these organizations to recognize the line as their customers, to ensure that ultimate accountability remains with those who can truly influence results.

Q: My 11 years of experience as a field services manager and director tell me that the number-one thing that IT folks (techs) do worst is administrative tasks, while the number-one request from customers is for “administrivia”?report on this, quantify that, quote this, find the root cause on that…. Given budgets, this makes me want to retain dedicated IT administrative staffers to handle reporting and field client requests for data and information.

A: Your comments get to the heart of the OCIO dilemma. It’s a great idea to provide staff support to line organizations in order for them to fulfill their obligations. In your case, it may make sense to conduct root-cause analysis on behalf of the technologist. However, it does not make sense to hold the staff organization responsible for remediation of the issue. Only those doing the work can be held accountable for the outcomes of the OCIO and administrative support functions.

Q: What is a typical project management office (PMO)? Is there value to the PMO, and if so, what?

A: I can’t imagine running an IT organization without some type of PMO, at a minimum as a mechanism for the CIO to see a consolidated view of project status and financials. Regardless of the form of the PMO?from centralized management of large enterprise projects to decentralized project management with centralized portfolio management, monitoring, reporting, standards and training?the mistake most often made is to hold the PMO, rather than the IT leaders, directly accountable for project success and the utilization of standard practices.

To see more reader questions and answers from Susan H. Cramm, go to Cramm is president of Valuedance, an executive coaching firm based in San Clemente, Calif. Her e-mail address is