Posted by: Arun Gupta
Changing role of the CIO, CIO, Leadership
Almost a decade back I remember a company that after spending a large amount of money with consultants going through the whole nine yards and then some more recommended rechristening the IT department as Business Technology. It was a move driven out of the aspiration to stay ahead of the crowd and differentiate. The BT group was different from Corporate IT and a few other IT groups within the enterprise; they were the elite. This was in the era when IT was just beginning to gain acceptance.
This large and diversified company was written about; the bold move spawned research papers and everyone acknowledged that the future belonged to Business Technology. Slowly over a period of time the internal customers of this group started asking the question, old wine in a new bottle still tastes the same; where is the change in attitude, delivery, partnership, innovation, all the good stuff that was promised and expected. Whatever happened to the Vision and Mission? Interestingly the leader retained the title of CIO and not CBTO. Maybe she did not want to tell a story.
Twist in the tale
Then I met another IT leader of a successful company who gave me a twist in the story. He had named his function STT. With me lost trying to decipher the TLA (three-letter acronym), he proudly unveiled the mystery with the logic: we create solutions; they are a lot more than hardware, software and networks. However whatever we do has a common underlying Technology framework. Solutions are holistic and do not constrain the thinking process. So our team is aptly known as Solutions & Technology Team. Ahem! Many years later the poor chap is lost in wilderness; he stressed more on the middle T than the first S.
In recent times there have been many discussions and debates on the changing role of the IT leader; some of them concluded with recommendations that the title CIO is no longer relevant and the role as it stands today will no longer exist in the next XX years (fill in whatever number you like). So, the name should be changed to reflect the new reality. Suggestions cover the entire alphabet soup with rationale based on not the CIO but the proposer’s frame of reference.
What’s in a name?
Does it matter what the function is called? Do semantics make a difference? Will the reality be different for the involved stakeholders depending on the nomenclature? How much does the name contribute to reality and success? Can an IT department transform itself with a new name? Is a change required with every changing technology trend and business evolution (would you like to be called Chief Cloud Officer)? I am not proposing going back to the historical EDP, but IT today represents to a large extent the sum of the parts that make us.
Success is a result of great attitude and not the other way around; I believe that individuals and leaders portray themselves based on past track record and the engagement that they are able to create. The IT team collectively mimics the behavior of the leader. This paradigm is true for all functions and no different for IT. CIOs should stop getting distracted by these irrational and irrelevant thoughts and focus on what matters to them, their teams, their customers (internal), and their customer’s customers (external). After all the best measure of success is success itself.