I remember riding my bike with friends when I was about ten years old. My brother, three years younger, was trying to keep up with us bigger boys. I was laughing, and urged my group on faster. We left my brother behind – he was much smaller. Later, I was in trouble because my father saw me leaving my brother behind, and I got a lecture to never do that again.
But that episode reminds me of IT governance’s lag; the seeming inability of many in the CXO class – that is, the CEOs, CFOs, and COOs – to simply pedal faster in today’s business-technology climate in maintaining optimal alignment. They don’t have the excuse of age, or size particularly, in explaining their inability to keep up – we’re all adults. It’s not that we expect a CFO, for example, to have the exact knowledge of a CTO or CIO – but we should expect that person to be qualified for the discussion and to bring valid ideas to the table.
Too many CXOs to whom IT reports are poorly qualified in making decisions regarding major IT directions and purchases – this can only have a negative impact on business-technology alignment. In seeking efficiency and cost savings, many a CXO blinks not only in the face of potential solutions, but also in their sizing and overall applicability to the specific environment; just because a system exists elsewhere and serves another situation, even a similar one, it doesn’t mean it will serve yours.
The CIO or CTO who entertains thoughts of Enterprise Resource Planning, Content Management, Configuration Management, the Cloud, social media, and all manner of other enterprise and business management solutions, needs qualified senior executives with whom to partner. This qualified group has to assess potential returns on investment vis-à-vis impacts to business: any specific large-scale change and corresponding enterprise impact may have little or no payoff in a particular environment – worse, it may simply be a negative.
It is certain that CIOs and CTOs are best protected by knowing business, and in the specific environment, knowing the business. By extension, they then best protect business and its interests: the CXO of IT is able to take a systems and enterprise view of business, and is able to speak to senior business execs in their language.
However, if you’re a part of IT governance – a senior executive; CEO, CFO, COO – and you’re taking the attitude that you don’t really need a corresponding understanding of technical resources and solutions, then it is definitely time to pedal faster. You need to keep up; you must qualify in understanding and progressing your business enablements to the best possible degree.
Your IT leadership can only go so far in discovering, assessing, and recommending solutions in delivering best business-IT alignment. You wouldn’t expect IT to know your business better than business itself, would you?
Start pedaling – hard.
July 27th: On this day in 1909, Orville Wright tests the first U.S. Army airplane; he flies for one hour and 12 minutes.