CIOs told to be more business oriented

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Summary : technology is not the property of the IT department anymore and CIOs must move from being the keeper of the flame to being a service provider for business lines and customers. With new stakes and obligations that makes his usual paradigm fly into pieces. IT is the matter of everyone in the organization and the IT department has to demonstrate its strategic value that is poorly perceived today. New positioning, new measure for the generated value, new profiles…even a new name for what is becoming a new job. Quick notes on the last Forrester CIO Summit EMEA that took place in Paris on june 19th and 20th.

A few words on the Forrester CIO Summit EMEA 2012 I attended recently in Paris. A very interesting event because of its general-interest nature. As a matter of fact, staying too much in the social bubble often lead to attribute many failing to CIOs, forgetting that’s far from being the only concern they have to deal with. Impossible to make a comprehensive feedback on this two-days event but here a couple of things I find worth sharing from the opening sessions that give a good vision of the themes and state of mind that prevailed during the event.

So, this post will mainly focus on George Colony‘s keynote and the on the excellent speech of Peter Hinssen whose presentation was one of the best I’ve seen for a long time on this topic.

If CIOs and IT departmens have to move on, it’s because of three factors :

– CEOS : he’s concerned about the capabilities to execute the strategy. Consequence for IT : responsiveness and alignment with operational business needs. That comes with the need of being cost-efficient.

– Employees : working in a fast-changing context, they need the tools they use to evolve as fast as the context. They need tools that fit their needs instead of having to try to adapt their work to the constraints of the tool’s they’re being given.

– customers : they need effective interactions with the business. It’s not only about conversations as we often hear but also transactions. Interactions should be able to happen in the form, through the channel and with the experience the customer decides. No matter the process behind is complex or not, things must be smooth and easy.

It’s easy to understand that IT departments will need to shift to a service activity. It’s not there anymore to define an environment that becomes a constraints for operations but deliver services that will meet operations’ constraints and needs. It’s now at the crossroad of organizational and business issues and can’t afford being the limiting factor that sets the limits of what end users can do to get things done but needs to co-create solutions that helps pushing these limits.

Just to make sure everyone get the message, a new name was suggested for CIOs that should become CBTO. A not that funny but meaningful acronym for Chief Business Technology Officer. The era of technology for the sake of technology is over, now technology’s only reason for living is its contribution to the business. There’s also a need for a chief mobility officer because there are so many initiatives on such a strategic matter than coordination is needed. Businesses can’t affort having tens or hundreds of competing and often incomptable initiatives in this field.

Today, the strategic value of IT is not perceived anymore. So the challenge is to deliver an actual, tangible value and learn of to measure it with business indicators, not IT ones.

In fact, technology has become anyone’s matter. “Technology has escaped us, it’s not our business anymore”. It has become “normal”. Whatever one job is, we’re all in the information business. Conclusion : IT should focus on employees’ and customers’ needs and change its paradigm :

– zero tolerance for digital failures : when gmail is down for 3 hours after having been up for 6 years, no one accepts it. No IT department has such good figures while it’s what employees and customers are used too.

– “Good enough is enough” : the best technology is not always…the best. The most easy to use ones become standards if they meet users’ needs.

IT departments will need new profiles to meet these challenges. “IT departments are full of guys who love the smell of a datacenter in the morning”. It needs to change.

So what tomorrow’s CIO going to look like

– an innovator that comes with new solutions

– a seducer that will convince others to follow him without being able to force them.

– a thoughtleader with a straightforward vision

– a tough guy because there are some points on which there’s no possible compromise.

The following sessions were very interesting and addressed very hot topics : the need to balance governance and agility, to bring innovation into the IT business model and to find a new to demonstrate the value of IT in business words and numbers. I’ll try to elaborate more on these points in a couple of days.