Only ‘Knuckleheads’ Think IT Isn’t a Differentiator

Is IT becoming less important?
No way: Technology hasn’t been this
strategic since the dot-com boom of the
1990s. That’s what some of Gartner’s top
analysts told us when we went beyond
the formal presentations at October’s
Gartner Symposium/IT Expo and met
individually to discuss immediate and
long-term IT priorities, the strategic role
of IT and whether the CIO function will
survive. Following are edited versions of
our conversations with Mark McDonald
and Dale Kutnick, group vice president
and senior vice president, respectively, of
Gartner Executive Programs, the division
that works most closely with CIOs.

CIO Insight: What items top your list of CIO priorities?
Mark McDonald: Growth is a challenge.
Business leaders are expecting IT
to provide some sort of competitive
difference in support of that growth. That’s
leading CIOs to concentrate on projects
to promote growth. Improving the skills
of their people is another top priority:
Skills are the single biggest inhibitor of
IT effectiveness. CIOs are working in an
expanded environment. Traditionally,
CIOs have worked with technology. About
two years ago we started to see CIOs get
involved in technology and process. Now,
in the leading organizations we work with,
we’re starting to see CIOs involved in four
things: technology, process, information/
analytics and customers.

Haven’t CIOs been involved in these areas for a long time?
By starting, I mean the
IT skills and capabilities are now either
a positive contributing or a negative
limiting factor on a company’s ability to
grow. That’s coming in part from three
major trends: First, the penetration of IT
into core processes is largely complete.

Now that these processes are automated and
infomated, businesses are going on to the next round
of benefits. Executives are telling CIOs, I’m glad you
automated it, now go on and do something new with
it. Another significant trend is, for companies to grow,
they have to be different in a way that matters to the
customer. That’s driving a whole new way of business
process and information transformation built around
changing the way organizations work. The last trend
driving this together is that the value of information
as a component of product and services is rising
dramatically. So with all those things, for the first time
in seven years, IT effectiveness is a major factor in the
CEO’s success. The last time IT effectiveness was a major
factor was back in the dot-com days.

Is this a break from the past?
For highly effective organizations, it is.
Going into 2008, too many organizations have an IT
strategy that is generic. It’s not differentiated for the
company, for the industry, etc. We’ve been comparing
CIOs’ top initiatives for the year; there’s about 80 percent
overlap on average. The list includes network and
ERP upgrades and business intelligence and security
projects. From a business perspective, saying that my
IT function is basically pursuing the same strategy as
other companies’ IT functions creates no competitive
advantage. And that’s what’s accelerating this thing.
Once an IT organization establishes a consistent track
record for delivery and credibility, there’s an explosion
of expectations around processes, information and
customers and an expectation that IT will no longer
follow a me-too strategy.

Next Page: CIOs Shape Expectations

Get the Free Newsletter!

Subscribe to Daily Tech Insider for top news, trends, and analysis.

Latest Articles