I read an interesting article on the gap between CIO and CEO technology priorities. Looking at the Gartner 2012 technology priorities (and using that as a proxy as what CIOs think is important) the CIO’s list revolves around Tablets, Mobile, Social, BI and Cloud. On the other hand the CEOs list is: ERP, CRM, Specific business-line applications, E-commerce expansion, General IT modernization, IT infrastructure improvements, Business mobility as it relates to major platforms, Business intelligence, Supply chain management and Security – interesting that process doesn’t show on either list, but I’ll leave for later.
What can I tell you? CEO’s are right – they are essentially saying that a lot of previous technology initiatives aren’t finished yet, and they still need to maximize their value to the business. CEOs are also saying that technology isn’t interesting unless it serves a business purpose. The CEO’s list focuses on technology initiatives that actually affect the business or as I like to think about it can either optimize and streamline current business delivery (increase the bottom line) or generate new business (increase the top line). Most of the CEO’s focus is on ITs ability to increase the bottom line, not the top, which is the gist of how CEOs view CIOs – as the owner and manager of the infrastructure used to make the business machinery run – not as a partner on the business side, and certainly not as a seat of business innovation. Many CIO’s balk at being pigeonholed in this way, they would like to consider themselves full fledged partners on the business side and maybe even as a candidate for CEO.
I think that the technology lists really highlight the difference between a CEO and CIO. The CEO focuses on things like ERP which is “technology in the large” – a number of technologies applied as a large business transforming initiative. The CIO list is “technology in the small” specific technologies that have unclear impact on the business as a whole.
CIOs need to think of technology in the large – and they actually have the technical ability to translate it into the different small technologies needed to make the initiative work. CIOs need to view technology as a tool for business, not an end in itself. They shouldn’t focus on “cloud computing” but rather the business benefits of “agility” – and then break that down into what is really needed by to enable agility (and maybe the cloud fits).
Here is my list of possible CIO technology initiatives, each has a set of related technologies – but I am sure there are many others I have left out (and hopefully others will point them out to me):
1. Process management – since IT touches almost every business process, the CIO is really the only person that could understand how the business actually runs. By taking a process oriented view of how IT supports the business a CIO could create real value for the company. There are quite a few process management related technologies that could be relevant, and process management should certainly be on the short list of initiatives for any CIO that wants to be CEO. I am surprised it didn’t show up on the technology list at all – though it did on the CEO’s list through ERP, CRM, applications and supply chain management.
2. Running IT as a Business – I am always surprised about how IT is actually run – IT could be a showcase of how information technology can be used to manage business, but it usually is not (and quite often the opposite). Eat your own dogfood – need I say more?
3. Leveraging Data for Business Value – the good news is this is actually on both lists. The bad news is the IT itself doesn’t do such a good job of leveraging their own data for their own needs. Again – shouldn’t IT be a showcase of how data can help make a business run better? Shouldn’t they be doing it themselves for their own business?
4. Application agility – applications are what business cares about – not how applications are delivered. The good news is that some of the technologies on the CIO’s list could be used to target appplication agility – cloud, app orientation, mobile – but if they are viewed as separate, distinct activities they probably won’t end up having a profound impact on the business. The point here is that the technology doesn’t matter from a business perspective – but applications do. How many innovative applications that help the business has IT come up with lately?