It is the “Revenge of the Nerds”, making it onto the executive floor and influencing the organisational direction.
Tom Kaneshige writing on CIO.com says “We’re witnessing bullied nerds rising up and kicking sand in the face of popular jocks. ‘Tis the meek inheriting the earth, science over salesmanship, math men over Mad Men.”
Big data, data analytics, mobile computing, BYOD, Cloud and more – there is even a new acronym for this, “SMAC” or social, mobile, analytics and cloud. Among the executive suite, in general, it is the CIO – the head of IT – who is the only person to really understand SMAC and importantly what effect, positive or negative, it will have on the business. The know-how for the optimum use of technology lies with IT, how to align it effectively with the business strategy should be a collective endeavour.
All departments of an organisation are users of technology, everyone has a computing device to do their work whether it is internally focused or it depends on the web. This makes everyone in the organisation a client of the IT department and dependent on the IT expertise. Conversely this makes IT answerable to all of these departments. Whichever way you look at it, this makes IT, what they do and what they deliver a key factor in an organisation’s success. The head of IT, whatever their title, therefore holds a position of considerable responsibility and this should be recognised and acknowledged. Those companies who have already done so, who are utilising the knowledge and expertise, are reaping the benefits.
Having become familiar with the title of CIO, others are now emerging – Chief Integration Officer, Chief Innovation Officer, Chief Data Officer and Chief Digital Officer to name a few but aren’t all these roles a function within the technology department? The saying “too many chiefs and not enough Indians” is very valid, not everyone can be in charge, that is not to say people shouldn’t be given responsibility and empowered to do their work but someone needs to be at the pointy end, to lead the team. Think of a pyramid, the point end is always at the top.
Too many teams can be divisive, result in silos and cause unnecessary competition, it is better to have larger teams with a common goal made up of various talents which have synergy. So integration, innovation, data and digital are all components of technology which need to work together.
Robert Plant, Associate Professor at the University of Miami suggest a different title, the Chief Business Technology Officer, that the “IT” label was the reason heads of technology weren’t making it to the executive level. He does also note, those CIOs who are driving value within an organisation have been freed from the “service only” role and are increasingly appreciated for their business knowledge.
Plant says “This new freedom will allow them to focus more on their role as enterprise architects, creating alignment between the organization’s technological and business processes in accordance with the company’s business model.”
Back in 2011, Forrester Research appointed Steve Peltzman as their CBTO. Peltzman says his job is “helping define and drive our business strategy, as well as being responsible for how we use technology to ‘win, serve, and retain’ customers.”
Combining business and technology is critical to a positive customer experience, in this “The Age of the Customer®”, the only one who can do this effectively is the CIO. This is also the only role in the executive suite which is truly evolving to meet changing business demands. The CEO, CFO, COO roles have long been defined and essentially have stayed the same and while it is to their advantage to be more technologically savvy, there isn’t the expectation they will become technology gurus.
The CIO though will continue to increase their business prowess without losing their technological knowledge and experience, using analytics and design to support the global growth of the organisation and cementing their positions at the pointy end of the pyramid.