The Voice of the CIO: IBM study reveals CIO roles - from value-creator to cost-cutter

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voiceofcio.gifI don't generally tell people that a report from a vendor is a "must read," but in this case it is. 

I'm referring to IBM's The New Voice of the CIO report, a global study of 2,598 Chief Information Officers (CIOs) released back in September of this year. 

The report (registration required) highlights the somewhat schizophrenic roles that CIOs the world over are under pressure to take on, depending, of course, on the nature of the burning issue at hand.  The report identifies six distinct roles that CIOs must learn in order to keep up with the requirements of the job:


The bright side of the report:

The voice of the CIO is being heard in new ways--as CIOs are increasingly recognized as full-fledged members of the senior executive team. Successful CIOs are much more actively engaged in setting strategy, enabling flexibility and change, and solving business problems, not just IT problems.

Today's CIOs spend an impressive 55 percent of their time on activities that spur innovation. These activities include generating buy-in for innovative plans, implementing new technologies and managing non-technology business issues. The remaining 45 percent is spent on essential, more traditional CIO tasks related to managing the ongoing technology environment. This includes reducing IT costs, mitigating enterprise risks and leveraging automation to lower costs elsewhere in the business.

So IT is increasingly viewed as strategy enabler, but not everyone is on that bandwagon.  The low-growth companies are, as might be expected, focused on bean counting and fire-fighting.

Visionary IT, on the other hand, is focused on strategic initiatives:


What's interesting here is that for high-growth companies, IT leadership is critical to both decision-making and innovation which are key to value-creation.  They're focused on the future of the business.

When I read this, I immediately thought of VG's three box strategic framework for how companies compete:

According to VG, "many organizations restrict their strategic thinking to Box 1. This tendency has been particularly acute in the past two to three years, as most leaders have emphasized reducing costs and improving margins in their current businesses."

That seems to square nicely with the IBM findings.

So it seems like the role of the CIO is largely determined by the culture and mindset of the executives running the company.  It's pointless trying to be strategic or innovative in a company that focuses on Box 1.

Where does business service management fit into all of this? IMHO, the CIO who sits at the decision-making table (in boxes 2 and 3) is practicing BSM.  The ones who are stuck in Box 1, not so much.

Once again, I suggest you find some time to read the report >>

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The connection you make between the IBM survey and Vijay Govindarajan is very interesting indeed. Why is it that so many companies focus on the short term?

A key Agile practice with respect to "Making innovation real" is affordable experimentation. Chunking of software development projects to short iterations in conjunction with a culture that considers "failures" as valuable lessons facilitate experimentation that leads to innovation. I would contend the same holds for CIOs and the way they implement business service management.

In other words, the "Insightful Visionary" and "Able Pragmatist" attributes highlighted in the IBM study are only part of the story. The theory in use is equally important.


Excellent addition to the BSM database! ...with good focus on the requirements of the business community from the perspective of the top IT executive: the CIO. In his blog entry, Christian identifies how the business dictates (...and should dictate) the culture and deliverables of the IT organization.

If the business "only" wants secure and cost-efficient computing, then the demand for visionary IT or collaborative IT managers becomes less of a fundamental need. If the business wants a sustained competitive advantage or a differentiated product/service offering, then IT must move beyond fundamentals to more proactive and collaborative activities. Again, great find for reference purposes.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Christian Sarkar published on November 14, 2009 3:28 PM.

BSM Maturity Model Quest Updates: HP and IBM was the previous entry in this blog.

The Joys of Real Hardware is the next entry in this blog.

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