Information Technology Management with a Purpose

Jun 25 2012   5:43AM GMT

Various shades of Outsourced CIO

S R Balasubramanian Profile: S R Balasubramanian

In my last dispatch I had spoken about the recent trend of organizations hiring CIOs as part time advisors to help put their IT program on track. This concept is certainly catching up and some organizations have already started experimenting with this service. While this seems to be working, there exist quite a few rough edges which need to be evened out.
The service can come in various flavors and companies define the scope depending on the complexity of their problem and their level of dissatisfaction with their current IT set up. Based on my experience and my conversations with fellow professionals, I have found the variations in scope which lets me classify the service into the following types:

  • As an assessor

Here the CEO wants the CIO to come and review the entire operations, point out things that are in order and those that are not, prepare a report, and also specify the budget for the next one year. The need arises because the CEO may often be irked by frequent requests for spends on IT and is not sure if the IT is headed in the right direction. If CEO is satisfied with the CIO-engagement, he may ask the CIO to come over again after six months and assess if the IT tasks are running as per plan and to make a revised budget based on progress till then.

  • As an advisor

Here the CEO may not be dissatisfied with IT, but is still not happy enough and wants IT to acquire a proper direction. He therefore asks his CIO friend to act as an advisor and be a member of the IT steering committee which may meet once in a month or so. The CIO is expected to either present a status report or join in the review of various projects and present his opinion as an expert. Wherever necessary, he can ask the advisor CIO to undertake special study or seek some involvement in a specific project. This can work well with the part time CIO devoting only as much time as is required by the organization.

  • As an advisor cum reviewer

The need of the organization is somewhat different here. There is no IT manager in play and therefore the whole IT program has no direction and the function has the limited role of maintaining the infrastructure and developing a few miscellaneous applications. The CEO wants the external CIO to advise the company on the road map for IT and also regularly review the working of the function to ensure the processes and delivery mechanisms are properly managed. For this the CIO may have to spend a fixed number of days, say two days a week to monitor the progress on various projects. He is not expected to manage the day-to-day operations but is expected to put systems in place, define performance parameters, and monitor them every week.

  • As a CIO, almost

Some companies have very little or no confidence in their IT team and therefore want someone to take over the entire responsibility. They look for a senior professional who has been a CIO to advise them on IT and also help manage the show. The CIO then spends some time to assess the requirements and then posts his own person to devote two or three days in a week to ensure that operations are smooth. The CIO does a periodic review and reports to the management and the company staff reports to him.

Which option is the best?
This depends entirely on the company’s requirement and plans. The objective here is to use the right resource and in optimal measure so that the plans of the organization are met. Being a new facility which has recently gathered momentum, I am not quite sure which model is setting the trend but from my recent interactions it seems the option 3, ‘advisor cum reviewer’ is getting some traction. It is up to the CIOs and IT service providers to develop this market and make the offering more attractive.

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