IT Departments, Here To Stay

IT Departments, Here To Stay

InformationWeek asks “Will IT Departments Disappear By 2020?”

This question comes from Forrester Research which sees the commoditization of IT as eroding the base for the traditional IT function and roles.

As we move to cloud computing–apps and infrastructure, as well as continue the trend for outsourcing IT such as help desk, desk support, and more what will be left for the CIO and his or her team to do?

The article answers this question with another major trend–that of consumerization–“differentiating value and visibility among consumers and employees.”

This is where IT can be highly strategic in serving those needs in the business that are truly unique and that enable them to be high performing and even outperform in the marketplace.

These ideas of commoditization and consumerization are anchored in Lawrence and Lorsch’s business studies of integration and differentiation of organizations, where organizations need to find their ideal state for integration of subsystems–such as through cloud computing, data center integration, and shared services–and for differentiation, where organizations differentiate themselves to address the unique value they bring to their customers.

So even with commoditization of IT and integration of services, the IT function in organizations will not be going away, no more so than HR or Finance functions went away with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions.

The CIO and IT function will be able to leverage base enterprise services as commodities, but they will be expected more than ever to focus on and provide strategic solutions for their customers and give their organizations the real technology competitive advantage they are looking for and desperately need.

This is what distinguishes a real CIO–one that provides strategic leadership in being user-centric and coming up with customer-oriented solutions that are not available anyplace else–from those managers that only help to keep the IT lights on.

If you are not differentiating, you are not really engaging–so get out there with your customers and roll up your CIO sleeves. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Charting Your Course

Charting Your Course

New article here by Andy Blumenthal in Public CIO Magazine called “Using Enterprise and Personal Architecture To Chart Your Course.”

“As a leader, one of your primary jobs is to bring a coherent, rousing vision and strategy to the organization and execute it to keep the organization relevant — that is enterprise architecture.”

Hope you enjoy!

Andy

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

The Meaning of CIO Squared

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An article in CIO Magazine (1 March 2012) describes the term “CIO Squared” as “the combination of chief information officer and chief innovation officer,” and goes on to provide examples of CIOs that are both of these.

While I respect this definition of the term and think innovation is certainly critical to the success of any CIO, and for that matter any organization in our times, I have been writing a column called CIO Squared for a couple of year now in Public CIO magazine and have other thoughts about what this really means.

Moreover, I think the article in CIO missed the point of what “squared” really implies

Like the notion that 1+1=3, CIO Squared is a concept that the CIO is not just multi-faceted and -talented (that would be 1+1=2), but rather that the CIO integrates multiple facets and roles and synergizes these so that they have an impact greater than the sum of the parts (i.e. 1+1=3).

I see the CIO Squared fulfilling its potential in a couple of major ways:

– Firstly, many organizations have both a Chief Information Officer and a Chief Technology Officer–they break the “Information Technology” concept and responsibility down into its components and make them the responsibility of two different people or different roles in the organization. One is responsible for the information needs of the business and the other brings the technology solutions to bear on this.

However, I believe that fundamentally, a truly successful CIO needs to be able to bridge both of these functions and wear both hats and to wear them well. The CIO should be able to work with the business to define and moreover envision their future needs to remain competitive and differentiated (that’s the innovation piece), but at the same time be able to work towards fulfilling those needs with technology and other solutions.

Therefore, the role split between the CIO as the “business guy” and the CTO as the “technology whiz” has to merge at some point back into an executive that speaks both languages and can execute on these.

That does not mean that the CIO is a one-man team–quite the contrary, the CIO has the support and team that can plan and manage to both, but the CIO should remain the leader–the point of the spear–for both.

Another way to think of this is that CIO Squared is another name for Chief Information Technology Officer (CITO).

– A second notion of CIO Squared that I had when putting that moniker out there for my column was that the CIO represents two other roles as well–on one hand, he/she is a consummate professional and business person dedicated to the mission and serving it’s customer and stakeholders, and on the other hand, the CIO needs to be a “mensch”–a decent human being with integrity, empathy, and caring for others.

This notion of a CIO or for that matter any CXO–Chief Executive Officer or the “X” representing any C-suite officer (CEO, COO, CFO, CHCO, etc.)–needs to be dual-hatted, where they perform highly for the organization delivering mission results, but simultaneously do so keeping in mind the impact on people and what is ultimately good and righteous.

Therefore, the CIO Squared is one who can encompass both business and technology roles and synthesize these for the strategic benefit of the organization, but also one who is mission-focused and maintains integrity and oneness with his people and G-d above who watches all.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

>CIOs, Earning The Right To Peer Parity

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There are a lot of jokes about being a CIO—it is one of the toughest professional level jobs and has a high turnover rate (average is barely 24 months according to Public CIO Magazine 2009)—hence the moniker “Career Is Over.”

Depending on the organization, CIO’s may be up against a host of daunting challenges—the fast pace of technological change, an organizational culture that can’t or doesn’t want to keep up, resource constraints, inflated expectations, vague requirements, and shifting priorities.

On top of these, the CIO is typically last in the executive pecking order, and so carries less authority than his/her peers. This is the subject of an article in the Wall Street Journal, 24 May 2010, called “Why CIOs Are Last Among Equals.”

According to the article, “most CIOs don’t have the broad business understanding, strategic vision and interpersonal skills that it takes to runs a company.”

The authors call out the following common CIO deficiencies:

  1. Leadership—“Too many CIOs and IT managers fail to take the lead in determining how technology can help the company,” instead relying on those outside the IT department.
  2. Strategic Thinking—“IT managers are seriously deficient in their knowledge of strategy,” most can’t articulate their organizations or IT’s strategy, “and (they) don’t appreciate the importance of strategy in guiding both long-term and short-term actions.”
  3. Communication Skills—“IT people don’t communicate effectively due to the absence of good questioning, listening, and sales skills.”
  4. Influence Skills—“Most CIOs are not good at marketing themselves and their IT organizations…[they] need to be out in front of every major technology, educating their senior corporate team on what it does and what it means for the company.”
  5. Relationship Skills—“IT managers know what characterizes strong relationships, but lack the skills to build such relationships at work.”

While, of course, these deficiencies do not apply to all CIOs—i.e. they are generalities—they are indicative of where as a profession IT and leadership need to focus on and look for ongoing improvement.

Clearly, IT leaders must be not only experts in the technology and operations, but must become true strategic leaders of the organization, able to formulate a way-ahead, articulate it, build consensus around it, and drive it to a successful execution. Keeping the proverbial IT “lights on” is no longer a viable CIO option.

What got us into this situation?

In my opinion, the notion of promoting for technical skills alone is mistaken. Rather, we need a holistic approach that emphasizes what I call “The Total CIO,” which is broad-based and includes the people, process, AND technology skills to truly see the big picture, and know how to drive real change.

While technology operations is critical for keeping our organizations running, they must be supported by strategic IT functions, such as those that I have called for in “The CIO Support Services Framework” including: enterprise architecture, IT governance, project management, customer relationship management, IT security, and performance management.

I believe that the leadership skills of “The Total CIO” and the strategic support functions of “The CIO Support Services Framework” will drive us to successfully progress our organizations, “earn our daily keep,” and achieve the right to peer parity based on executive skills and competencies that are expected and necessary.

>CIO Ones To Watch Award

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Really grateful to be honored this week by CIO Magazine with 2010 “Ones To Watch Award.”

Also, met some tremendously smart, talented, and nice people at the conference and award dinner.

Among them–CIA, Special Forces, Fortune 500 CIOs, Social Networking Guru, Prior Professional Kite Flyer, and many others.

Congratulations to all the awardees!

>Conflict Management and Enterprise Architecture

>What is conflict?

In the book Images of Organization by Gareth Morgan, the author states “Conflict arises whenever interests collide…whatever the reason, and whatever form it takes, its source rests in some perceived or real divergence of interests.”


Why does conflict occur?


Morgan continues: “People must collaborate in pursuit of a common task, yet are often pitted against each other in competition for limited resources, status, and career advancement.”

How does conflict manifest?


The conflicting dimensions of organization are most clearly symbolized in the hierarchical organization chart, which is both a system of cooperation, in that it reflects a rational subdivision of tasks, and a career ladder up which people are motivated to climb. The fact is there are more jobs at the bottom than at the top means that competition for the top places is likely to be keen, and that in any career race there are likely to be far fewer winners than losers.”


How does User-centric EA help Manage Conflict?


Enterprise architecture is a tool for resolving organizational conflict. EA does this in a couple of major ways:

  1. Information Transparency: EA makes business and technical information transparent in the organization. And as they say, “information is power”, so by providing information to everyone, EA becomes a ‘great equalizer’—making information equally available to those throughout the organization. Additionally, by people having information, they can better resolve conflict through informed decision-making.
  2. Governance: EA provides for governance. According to Wikipedia, “governance develops and manages consistent, cohesive policies, processes and decision-rights for a given area of responsibility.” As such, governance provides a mechanism to resolve conflicts, in an orderly fashion. For example, an IT Investment Review Board and supporting EA Review Board enables a decision process for authorizing, allocating, and prioritizing new IT investments, an otherwise highly contentious area for many sponsors and stakeholders in the organization.

Conflict is inevitable; however, EA can provide both information and governance to help manage and resolve conflict.

>To Be A CIO and Enterprise Architecture

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Public CIO Magazine, June/July 2008, has some interesting articles on what it takes to be a next generation CIO (and many of these have to do with enterprise architecture).

Here are some tips (adapted from Public CIO):

  • Develop your EA and IT Governance Capabilities—one of the first moves of Michael Locatis, the CIO of Colorado, was “hiring an enterprise architecture team leader and the development of new governance structures.” This is critical in effectively planning and change managing the consolidation of IT. In Colorado it means uniting “20 disparate IT departments into a single citywide Technology Services Division.”
  • Be a strategist—Liza Massey, CEO of The CIO collaborative, a Las Vegas-based consultancy believes that a “CIO needs to make the leap from being a technologist to being a strategist [what EA planning is all about!]…’you have to be seen as a peer working for the good of the organization, not as the chief geek.’” She says, “if you know the version number of the operating system running on your mainframe, you’re probably not a CIO.”
  • Understand that mission drives technology—Pat Schambach, retired CIO of the Secret Service, ATF, and the TSA said “it was his ability to understand his organization’s business imperatives that made him CIO material.” Pat states about the Service, “they wanted someone who knew the mission well and could bring technology to bear against that mission.” Again, this is good EA and IT governance in practice: where business drives technology and not doing technology for technology’s sake.
  • Focus on business processes—Vivek Kundra, the CTO of Washington DC believes that “The key is to focus on the business process.” He stated, “My approach is to go after the core of the problem, to look at how the employees do their jobs and then look for how we can affect change.” Again, this is EA synthesizing business and technology to satisfy mission and end-user needs and requirements.
  • “Behave like an enterprise”—Dave Wennergren, Deputy CIO for the Department of Defense and prior CIO of the Navy, said “we have to behave like an enterprise. We don’t need 50 smart card solutions or 50 collaboration tools.” He believes “the enterprise can be responsible for tools everyone uses, freeing up agency developers to work on tools specific to their needs.” In other words, we can leverage enterprise architecture and IT governance to develop enterprise solutions that are cost effective and efficient, but at the same time remain nimble in meeting niche or localized needs.
  • Be able to translate business to technology and vice versa—Alan Shark, executive director for the Public Technology Institute said, “I’m seeing a big shift from issues that were purely technology to issues have much more to do with IT governance and leadership—being a translator between the technologists who work in the trenches and the politicians or the [higher-level] people who just want to hear the facts.” Again, EA plays a critical role here in synthesizing business and technology to enable better IT decision making for the mission/business.
  • Leadership skills—In the latest survey of the National Association of State CIOs, the traits that rose to the top for CIO success: “communication skills, negotiation skills, being able to collaborate and work across the agencies, to work with their executive team.” Laura Fucci, the CIO of Clark County Nevada (home to the Las Vegas strip) echoes these sentiments for a CIO and talks in terms of team building [and networking], being a consensus builder, improving customer service (ITIL), studying metrics, and good project management.

A few other traits worth mentioning from David Wennergren, from DoD, is continuous learning and studying and driving best practices. This again ties strongly to enterprise architecture which builds the target architecture, transition plan, and IT strategic plan, bringing together the best practices from inside and outside the organization to move it steadily forward.

Clearly, the enterprise architecture is the foundation for a successful CIO and the organization he/she serves.