Thursday, April 17, 2014

Shall a CIO be a General Manager of IT or a SME of all IT Domains?

CIOs may not be the SME of all IT domains, but they should understand technology enough to ensure they have a keen sense of judgment on the priorities for IT investment.

Today’s CIOs have multiple roles to play and take broader leadership responsibilities in transforming their organizations. Should a CIO be a general manager of IT or a subject matter expert (SME) of all IT domains?

Conceptual understanding, logical thinking, and analytical approach are the keys to be a digital CIO: Practically, it is not possible for a CIO to be a subject matter expert in all domains. The best CIOs operate in a more general capacity, especially as the IT organization of the company grows. It is too difficult to be a SME on all IT domains, there just isn't enough time in the day. Further, CIOs' jobs are not limited to IT and they are transforming themselves into chief innovation officers and the chief digital officer that justify and matches the Board and senior leadership team’s expectations.

A CIO needs to come strategically to all projects and guide teams for many critical areas. If you are SME, you may tend to drift into the how of a project and lose focus on the purpose, results, and people of the project. The CIO's focus should be on: 
1) Strategic vision and insight into how information technology can better catalyze and enable the organization's ability to achieve strategic objectives.
2) Operational effectiveness and efficiency.
3) Governance & Risk management of operations and data, presenting an aggressive, proactive posture in information management 
4) Being a trusted information broker to other C-suite executives and stakeholders regarding IT issues, concerns, and considerations.
5) Ensuring that IT-related programs and projects are efficiently and effectively executed, and consistently deliver a high-quality product and service to the organization within budget and schedule thresholds. 

A CIO must have a very good team of SMEs to help guide them for subject matters. The CIO by himself/herself should understand technology enough to ensure he/she has a keen sense of judgment on the priorities for capital investment. To do this, he/she would need to keep himself/herself updated on technology trends in various domains. To accomplish the IT focus, CIOs must surround themselves with highly competent leaders, managers, project managers, and technology specialists capable of managing and executing the organization's IT operations, programs, and projects, and properly planning and managing the IT portfolio of planned and active projects to ensure alignment with strategic objectives within budgetary and resource constraints.

In short, CIOs should be more as a general manager of IT, CIOs need to provide leadership to the organization from Board level down to the business unit and IT organization. Have a good understanding of both businesses and IT is crucial while understanding of all IT SME is impossible and not crucial. The CIO will need to have a strong team around him. At the same time, it is much more than just having the right people to get information from. With evolving markets, CIOs must understand technology to at least a level that he/she is able to direct when needed. The decision matrix is pretty complex today, and your domain experts/leaders for specific areas do need help often. A great CIO does need to hold triple As: ‘Attitude, Aptitude, and Altitude,’ in order to lead IT with vision, strategy, and effective execution.


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