Three Steps to Becoming a Strategic CIO
The chief information officer role historically has been a tactical one. When it emerged in the early 1980s, the title, like the IT function more generally, was tied to accounting and finance—no surprise given that IT’s claim to fame in the early days revolved around automating the general ledger and other financial systems. CIOs most often reported to chief financial officers.
Today, with CIOs increasingly reporting directly to the CEOs and expected to execute imperatives company-wide, strategic excellence has replaced tactical smarts as a job requirement.
With a higher-profile come more challenges. The fact that IT must bring to life the strategic imperatives of all other divisions of the company means that a lack of strategic clarity from those divisions can adversely affect the CIO and his or her team. The members of the marketing team and the HR teams should know a bit about what each is doing, but the fact that one focuses its attention outside of the company exclusively and the other focuses on internal matters means that neither is likely to suggest innovative project ideas to the other. By contrast, IT should be doing just that for each of these divisions and all others.
The extent to which any division’s strategic plans are opaque to IT means that it will not effectively develop ideas to help drive those plans forward. Without sufficient strategic clarity, IT is left guessing, and may leave the impression that the number one priority of multiple divisions of the company are each the number one priority of IT.