The CIO as CPO

By CIOinsight  |  Posted 05-01-2001 Print Email

The CIO as CPO

Inevitably, these new business-technology teams are also redefining the role of the CIO. As the teams take on more responsibility for Net-focused, corporatewide cost-cutting initiatives, CIOs must become more skilled at business strategy and managing change. They must also be willing and able to operate at higher levels within the organization. "The CIO is emerging as the driving force behind these challenging new implementations," says Johnson, "as a kind of chief project officer."

The CPO, says Gartner, is a CIO who has companywide responsibility for e-business and other technology projects. He or she must function like a field general, commanding a view of what everyone is trying to do, and then making sure all of the various technology initiatives work when wired together.

"The CIO as CPO has to enforce an integrated approach to project management," says Jim Duffy, a partner with Deloitte.

"A lot of these projects have dependencies and interdependencies that lend themselves to a kind of Desert Storm approach to managing change."

But not every CIO will be up to the job: According to Harvey Robbins, author of The New Why Teams Don't Work, team members dispatched to these new projects sometimes aren't as skilled as they need to be. "They've overblown their capabilities, and as a result something may go wrong," he says. "The CIO has to come to the rescue in those cases" and is far more likely to take the blame for failed projects.

If CIOs are to evolve into skilled project managers, whole new skills may be required—from the ability to recruit top talent and build teams that work well together, to diplomacy and consensus building and a knack for winning top corporate buy-in for key projects. Another plus: having input into issues once left solely to marketing. Just ask Codack. "In my last job, I was a CIO," he says. "I didn't normally get involved in areas like branding, marketing and business development. Now I spend 30 percent to 40 percent of my time on those types of things."

What's more, CIOs as project managers are more visible inside the company—and more vulnerable politically. "It used to be that if an installation didn't work, it was a tech department problem," says author Lipnack. "Now, if a CPO blows a CRM installation, it's an enterprisewide problem, and everybody knows it; it's damaging to the bottom line, and the CPO is the one who gets the blame."

The new trends also mean that some existing CIO skills just got more important. In the new role of a CPO, for example, there's even more pressure on CIOs to learn how to lead, juggle three or four different projects at a time, and mitigate cultural differences in-house, across industries and across borders. The stakes of failing are higher than ever, says Gartner.

CIOs see the writing on the wall. Michael Earl, professor of information management at the London Business School, says LBS survey data shows that CIOs understand all too well that more is being expected of them—and more still over the next four to five years. "The new CIO is quite different from the CIO or IT chief of old," says Earl, "and the expectations of top management are likely to keep rising."

Over the next four to five years, Gartner analysts say, all CIOs will begin to take on some or all of the companywide project management responsibility. Whatever the team structure, Gartner recommends that CIOs first set up a formal project management office—or expand the one that was created to make Y2K fixes. This, Gartner says, will bring heightened awareness and discipline to new technology rollouts—chiefly e-business initiatives.

"With the trend toward more matrixed organizations, less defined job roles and more enterprise work being structured into projects, some form of project office is essential to help executive management get a grip on project portfolios," says Light. He cites a 30 percent to 40 percent increase in the past two years of companywide work being assigned to project teams. "There's a lot of nervousness being caused by [top corporate] execs having little visibility into projects," he says.


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