Are CIOs Expendable?
Do you sense some frustration against CIOs who aren't all things to all people?
I think some companies, a number in the manufacturing area, have dispensed with the corporate CIO over the last year or so. They've gone from having an office of the CIO to a more devolved structure, in which case they don't believe they need a CIO. And they buy in services, and they don't see a need to have someone at a strategic level. I think that's a mistake.
So business and IT need to be synchronized, if you will, in order to achieve alignment?
I think of it this way. Nonalignment is a natural state. Alignment is not the natural state. Alignment assumes you've got everything absolutely in sync at the same time. This is never going to be the case because the speed at which things develop externallyin the business and technology environments is very fast. The speed with which you can respond to those changes internally as an organization structurally, culturally and technologicallyis much slower. Therefore, things are never going to be completely aligned, nor should they be. If they are aligned, then either your business objectives are too modest or you've over-invested in technology, one or the other.
Think of cogs in a wheel, all moving at different speeds. You have to be able to link up in ways such that the cogs can still turn. Some are going to be turning more slowly than others. That's what we mean by synchronization. It's a different way of thinking from alignment, but it very much plays into the very volatile business situationtechnologically, politically and sociallythat we have now.
Do many companies understand this?
Certainly, about 50 percent of our executive program members report to the CEO directly, which is an increase over previous years, but then that's still only 50 percent. And it's only one measure.
It's not so much that the CIO is now more important, it's that the penetration of technology and the importance of information and communication have become much more important to a company. So it's now more important that someone has a good grasp of that on the executive team, someone who can identify and help other executives to identify what's possibleand then be able to deliver what's possible.