Is the Value of a CIO Diminishing?

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Recent editorials have suggested that the CIO role was trending toward being eliminated or pushed down in the corporate organization, no longer worthy of a C-level position. Longtime IT management professionals are obviously troubled by this notion, as a good CIO can be as impactful to an organization as any position. However, any CIO interested in maintaining or achieving C-level status should have a point of view on the Software as a Service (SaaS) model.

While SaaS solutions are viable options under the right business circumstances, there is no reason that the role of the CIO, or the role of IT in general, should be diminished by this or any other trend. The CIO’s role, like that of any executive, simply needs to evolve to keep up with the business climate and the ever-increasing array of technology solutions. Business units outside of IT can evaluate their own software solutions, however, it is incumbent upon the CIO to educate management on the importance of IT involvement to ensure that any software selected, SaaS or not, be consistent with and well integrated into the existing technical architecture. Otherwise, implementation and ongoing maintenance costs could undermine the value and total ROI of the software acquisition.

In most industries today, IT touches almost every aspect of the business. This puts IT and the CIO in a unique position not only to understand all aspects of the business, but also to understand the intra-company relationships and synergies that exist between departments. Unlike other areas, which tend to be independent silos at times, IT is in the unique position to mine for efficiency opportunities and cross-functional revenue generating opportunities. The question becomes whether or not the CIO leverages this unique position when ‘C-level worthiness’ is evaluated.

Organizations of all sizes are still falling behind by not leveraging the power of management data, or business intelligence, or predictive analytics, or big data, or whatever other hot buzz words one might use to describe how data can be used to move the business forward. Most companies still primarily use data to report on what has happened in scorecard fashion, versus using data to influence future results. This is, perhaps, the most impactful opportunity for CIOs today. Yet, most let the opportunity pass them by, likely as it involves mobilizing other corporate executives—which takes time and effort. Unfortunately, many CIOs don’t have the communications and marketing skills required to launch such an initiative, preferring to remain bunkered in their safe haven of infrastructure.

For all CIOs and those who aspire to this title, remaining in the C-suite is 100 percent reliant on the ability to create value to warrant C-level consideration, nothing more or less. The fact that technology trends might require a different focus or a better leveraging of opportunities is nothing new. IT remains well positioned to be as, or even more impactful than any corporate function, but the value has to be developed. It is not going to materialize on its own.

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