The CIO’s Dilemma – The Role of the CIO with Today’s Ever Changing Technological Advances

By Krista Aguilar – OpenIT, Inc.

CIO roles have been changing lately, to include major tasks such as cost-cutting, reworking existing business processes, and reshaping the enterprise’s physical infrastructure. Integrating Internet and the enterprise’s knowledge resources into both its long-term strategy and its immediate business plans has required massive focus.

IT managers may feel constrained in their ability to achieve a balance of innovation and cost reduction. Technology infrastructure budgets tend to be flat; IT departments are doing more with fewer resources. Common tasks like managing virtualization of servers and applications, and taking backups are more often outsourced in order to save money.

At an annual meeting a business plan, with details about funding, business initiatives, and cost-cutting measures, is presented. The CIO sitting at the conference table is listening, but keeps silent. He has something to say but is weary of repeating himself. His thoughts might include the following:

“We’re here to help but we’re not superheroes!”

IT managers are not miracle workers, and can’t always save users from the distress they themselves have caused. The CIO needs the right kinds of tools to equip them in meeting user needs and expectations.

“I know what you need but what about our needs?”

When someone calls for the help of the IT manager, it’s as if they are asking a genie to grant their wish, and they expect the “Your wish is my command” response. In reality, IT managers are often taken for granted. When it comes to funding their needs, most CIOs are still scrambling just to keep their organizations running. With small IT budgets, managers are expected to get maximum value from existing resources. Without the proper mix of assets it is difficult to meet expectations and perform optimally over time.

“Can we all just get along?”

Susan Cramm identifies the following stereotypes: Operations guys are risk averse. Marketing types are emotional. Finance wonks are narrow-minded. CIOs are interpersonally awkward and out of step with the business.”

Although leaders want to resolve problems they get bogged down in stereotyping. Everyone needs to manage their differences in order to provide long-term solutions and achieve company goals.

“Hello? I’m here and I exist.”

While outsourcing is one of the most enticing cost-cutting strategies in the business today, many companies doing so lose their ability to innovate IT. Important noncore operations get outsourced when IT departments don’t meet metric requirements, can’t solve problems and can’t provide long-term solutions. The knowledge is there but it’s still inadequate. Sometimes companies rely too much on outsourcing and fail to fully determine why and if they really need it. Management neglects to regularly update the right kinds of tools and equipment for maximum efficiency. While outsourcing can be good for business in this regard, it’s not for everybody. If companies have the best personnel and tools, then they can trust their own people to perform. The IT department can optimize and maximize their existing assets, and cut costs internally on their own.

“I think a change would do you good.”

While one main CIO endeavor is to push innovation for the company’s progress, many managers experience frustration with operational limitations. IT managers should be empowered to freely incorporate best practices, build up self-help and enhance IT smarts throughout the organization.

So the next time there is a board meeting, you may want to add the CIO’s annual call for help to your agenda. If the CIO only sits silently at the corner of the conference table, you may want to check whether they are still breathing.