I heard from a reader recently that Chief Idiot Officer, not Chief Information Officer, is a more apt descriptor for CIOs he’s dealt with. Harsh.
The scathing note was in response to my recent story, “Role of CIO increasingly calls for monetizing IT, intellectual assets,” a look at a trend I am hearing about from CIOs, headhunters and analysts. Why so acerbic? I emailed back. He wrote back that he believes the CIO role is “redundant and glorified,” mainly because CIOs fail to live up to the information part of their duties. In his experience, CIOs equate information with IT, failing to take into account the human element in information, in all its “fuzzy logic,” thus fulfilling the role of CTO, not CIO. The complaint bears posting, I believe, as a reminder that the CIO role is ultimately about business outcomes, not product features or technology.
With his permission, here is an excerpt from Richard Ordowich on the role of the CIO.
What I find is that most CIOs know nothing about “information.” Ask a CIO about the information needs of their organization and they’ll tell you about cloud computing, virtualization and business intelligence, not about what information is needed to meet strategic business goals.
I worked with a large insurance company and met with their CEO and asked him what his information needs were and his response was that his CIO told him they needed master data management! Further conversation with the CEO revealed that the company needed increased real-time data to quickly estimate their policy premiums and analyze their risks as claims were filed. The CIO sat there, dumbfounded, and began talking about how they were working on enterprise architecture!
At one of the largest retailers, I reviewed their data governance plan. They focused on master data management, data quality, establishing data stewards, etc. When I asked them about how this was going to improve the information needs of the business and contribute to revenue, they looked like I had asked them for how the world was formed. This was after they had a drink of the Kool-Aid from the pundits online and a LARGE consulting firm, who will go nameless, who told them about their need for data governance!
CIOs typically believe business intelligence is a data warehouse and BI tools. They forget the fact that the intelligence really exists between the chair and the keyboard. They know little about semantics of data (and I don’t mean the semantic web). They know little about assessing the value of data, except when a mistake is made. They think about information only in terms of IT. What about all the information that is exchanged verbally, in reports, around the coffee machine and in written form? How is that information managed — and I don’t mean digitizing it. What flows of information occur outside of the IT environment, between people! …
Have CIOs established best practices for assessing the quality of their BI data and reports? Most reports continue to be generated, day after day, without any formal review process to validate their accuracy.
I subscribe to the Kool-Aid of Nicholas Carr and, more recently, Jaron Lanier’s book, You Are Not a Gadget. I think these should be required reading by all CIOs, and they should be required to do a book report after reading these to make sure they learned something!
Then maybe, I will grant them the opportunity to redeem themselves and truly fill the role as Chief “information” Officer, not Chief IPad officer.