Information Technology Management with a Purpose

Aug 9 2010   5:24AM GMT

Does the CIO also play a HR manager’s role, even if informal?

S R Balasubramanian Profile: S R Balasubramanian

Can the CIO make contributions to HR? Certainly yes, will be my answer to this query.

Now, if we go by the traditional view, the CIO is a technology wizard who peers at the computer screen and makes various machines work. He is considered a back-end guy, someone who has very little to do directly with the people. But haven’t things changed over the last few years?

Today, IT touches us our everyday lives, and we are very largely dependent on it. Unless the CIO has an idea of the accruable benefits and how IT influences the way we do our work, he would certainly not be of any help. Therefore, the CIO has now come out of his hiding and to do everything that is needed—alongside the people around him.

Let me cite a few examples from my experience. During my stint with a chemical company (way back in 1992), I fought against the prevailing opinion and persuaded the management to sanction the budget required to roll out state-of-the art IT infrastructure throughout the company. With sheer enthusiasm, I went about putting in Windows 3.1, introducing e-mail throughout the company, connecting all offices through the 9.6 kbps STD link, and organizing large scale training to staff on the new platforms. In doing so, I made visits to all locations to ensure functioning of the programme. Within a short period of three months, people were playing around and connecting with people from other offices whom they might have not spoken with for years.

Unwittingly, I had played the role of binding people and getting them interested in work. With a modern IT infrastructure in place, the factory (which was in a remote location) started to attract Graduate Engineering Trainees (GETs). People gave me the informal title of ‘the real HR head’, and this was a pleasant surprise.

Yet another example I can use comes from my tenure with an automobile company. I worked hard to get the systems right in this organization – not one of the pleasantest of things. I met with resistance, but somehow managed to put in improved systems across various areas, which covered work flow, ERP systems and process automation through bar codes. To make systems more effective, I worked with users to bring about process improvements. The results were amazing; apart from financial benefits, there was a transformation in the work load on people and reduction in stress levels. Cessation of overtime and late sitting came as a boon to people. Realizing the popularity of the IT department with the masses, the HR department started to use us for rolling out some of their initiatives in the organization—with the HR head frankly admitting that IT had more credibility.

I am sure that many of our friends would have similar experiences to narrate. In my opinion, today’s CIO has come of age. While doing so, he brings about changes that bring in positive changes to the environment. These above examples just emphasize the fact that a CIO is more human than some may think, and can really be of more value to the organization.

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