Is the CIO relevant?

A long time ago now, in 2003 Nicholas Carr wrote an article Does IT Matter? which occasioned much heated debate about the role of IT and its practitioners.

The article is often cited because it actually covered many different dimensions of the IT environment. One of his premises was that IT is commoditising and therefore has only occasional strategic advantage for the very fast movers or for those with other unique and complementary attributes.

Highly refined, super-slick business processes can be a competitive advantage, but rarely last in that state as they are easily copied.

In any event the slick business process is the responsibility, generically of the COO.

If this premise is remotely true therefore why is there continual pressure for the CIO to get a board seat. Is it about IT or is it about something else?

Ego maybe. Why should the CIO sit at the top table if they are merely maintaining the status quo with adequate information technology but not being a source of competitive advantage?

In any event, if flawless process is an output then the custodian of the wider process should be the board participant responsible and that in many cases means the COO.

If this is valid and it's a simple logical step to take, then it would be in all IT leaders interests to focus on business outputs rather than just technology.

It would require them to try and assume some of the role of the COO.

To focus on continuous process improvement and what it generates for the business rather than wiring. This is essential if there is to be any room for a CIO aspiring to get to the board table.

If the role isn't focussed in the right place, change the role.

If there is a single source of evidence that most IT leaders are pointing in the wrong direction its is their CV's.

Very few, say one in twenty, even tangentially allude to the value their labours have added to the enterprise or even focus on the quantum of improvement in outputs.

Most talk about how big budgets and how onerous responsibilities are, rather than how performance has improved. If you are not looking at moving forward then a seat on the Board will be a long time coming.

This impact of making this shift is that other IT roles should ideally change too.

For example, the technical architect who determines if the wiring will work, is theorising in a limited time-box if they cannot anticipate how the business process may change.

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