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IT Can Do It! Peter High On The CIO’s New Role

IT Can Do It! Peter High On The CIO’s New Role

by Gil Press, published on Forbes

09-29-2014

Peter High has an urgent message to CIOs everywhere: You Can Do It! The sub-title of his new book, Implementing World Class IT Strategy: How IT Can Drive Organizational Innovation, also makes it clear that his clarion call is more broadly aimed at CEOs and other senior executives who seek advice on how to harness the digital perfect storm. The book, says High, is about “how IT can become a tremendous force for improving the strategic work of the company as a whole.”

All businesses and organizations today are digital. They use IT to innovate the means by which they interact with their outside constituencies—customers, partners, suppliers—and the ways by which they manage their internal operations and motivate their employees. But with a half-century legacy of a continuously widening gap between rapid technological change and inadequate organizational adaptation, IT is still regarded in many quarters as a “cost center.” With this legacy IT role goes the definition of the CIO as a cost-cutter and a process expert. IT, even in this digital age, is supposed to keep “the trains running” and the “lights on.”

This perception of the role of the IT organization has led to endless complaints about the CIO “not having a seat at the table.” The CIO has not been involved in deliberations among senior executives regarding where the business is going and has been left out of the development of the strategy of the business. Even in the increasingly common situation where the CIO is involved with the development of the overall strategy of the organization, the short- and long-term goals of the IT organization are developed as a follow-on component of that strategy.

Long-held perceptions are difficult to change, especially for the people being pegged as followers rather than leaders. High references Gary Beach, the publisher emeritus of CIO magazine, who has found in fifteen years of surveying CIOs that only 9%—at most—saw themselves as “game changers” in their workplace.  “I am not surprised,” writes High, “that CIOs might have suffered from a lack of confidence in the late 1980s or early 1990s, but during current times when IT is so clearly growing in importance, how could this continue to be the case?”

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