The “New” Chief Information Officer

The strategic value of information
isn’t going away, even if the
job of chief information officer as
we know it may vanish. “Ten years from
now, you’ll see very few CIOs,” says Ian
Campbell, CEO of IT consultancy Nucleus
Research.

Yet, the importance of information
to all kinds of organizations will grow
in the coming years. That could mean
information strategy will become a specialized
and critical function led by a top
visionary reporting to the chief executive
officer. And the title of that creative
thinker: chief information—not chief
IT—officer.

In that sense, losing the portfolio to
maintain the IT itself and the people
who support it is a gift to these farsighted
CIOs. Instead of spending too
much time on the routine stuff, these
information visionaries will focus on the
strategic work everyone’s been clamoring
for them to do.

“CIOs can now truly be change
agents,” says Bobby Cameron, a vice
president and principal in Forrester
Research’s IT leadership team. “They
should be pushing technology management
down a level. They don’t need to be
techies anymore. Now is the right time
for them to make a strategic move. The
only question is whether they are truly
interested or capable of it.”

Understanding the role IT will play
in an organization is a crucial first step
for this new CIO. During the interview
process, any potential CIO needs to interview
the company as well, to determine
if it’s going to be a good fit in light of
the changing IT management structure.

Being proactive in moving outside the
technology box is the next step.

“Volunteer for projects that have
nothing to do with IT,” advises Stephen
Pickett, chairman of the SIM Foundation
and past president of the Society for
Information Management.

“If your company is opening up a new
parts warehouse in Memphis, get on
the committee. You’re going to have to
learn that business anyway, so give yourself
some access and a chance to show
yourself.”

It’s time for CIOs to “move out of
their comfort zones and assume some
risk,” Pickett adds.

Most executives appreciate being
“informed and challenged,” he says.
If you’re in a group of C-level executives
and you’re talking about whether
the PC network was available that day,
“their eyes are going to glaze over.”

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