Information Technology Management with a Purpose

Feb 27 2012   9:03AM GMT

The ever busy CIO

S R Balasubramanian Profile: S R Balasubramanian

The CIO is an important functionary. He is one of the most sought-after executives and is most remembered when things go wrong. At other times he is given importance and is befriended by many when they want their PC or printer to be replaced, or when they want a new system to be developed or existing system modified.
He has a team of a few professionals to support him in delivering various services to business. He is sometimes told to downsize staff and go in for outsourcing. During difficult times he is asked to work on a slashed budget outlay, yet he is expected to maintain the level of services that he gives to the organization.

Let us also look at the positives:

  • Outsourcing has helped him in shifting a lot of routine tasks and the resultant headaches to a third party that is bound by strict clauses on service level agreements (SLAs).
  • He has a lot of automated software tools that are available for server monitoring, network monitoring, diagnosis, etc. which let him identify faults and to rectify them.
  • Reliable hardware and software ensure fewer failures.
  • Increased availability of hosting and cloud services makes his task easier further.

Sorry, I’m busy!
I have found some of the CIOs quite stuck up with their office work and go home late every day. Vendors find them hard-pressed for time and take several days to get a meeting fixed. People look for them at various seminars and other professional events but are told that they couldn’t make it because of work pressure. Some poor souls call up to cancel their participation at the last minute regretfully citing important meetings, such as those with their Directors or the CEO, as the key reason. There are, of course, others who state very clearly that they are not available during the month-ends and month-beginnings because of the accounts-closing and for generating MIS reports.
I feel sorry for them. Sometimes I reckon there cannot be more unfortunate victims than them and that the industry should do something to improve their lot.

Professionals of wage slaves?
I have often wondered what makes them the most victimized set of professionals. I remember those days when the IT head used to supervise data entry and processing and was answerable for generating various reports to the management. He couldn’t then leave office till the processing was completed and reports were handed over. Today, however, users do their own tasks and reports are available online. Users are made owners of the systems and are custodians of the data quality. Routine IT tasks are outsourced and the CIO plays only a supervisory role.
But he is still busy and an overworked executive! He slogs and still feels he doesn’t get his due.  His evenings are not his own and sometimes misses important social functions.

A possible way out
It is very difficult for any expert to prescribe a solution. Every situation is difficult; some are genuinely difficult, especially if in an organization maintains a high pressure work environment.
One solution could be to delegate and initiate some succession planning so that the incumbent starts taking additional responsibilities and frees up the CIO’s time. Another way could be to stop accepting random / ad hoc requests. He could work on a long term plan in conjunction with the business heads and work as per an agreed plan only. It may not be a good idea to try to impress management with our late sittings – it doesn’t work in many situations.
I had once angered my CEO by closing work in my department at the evening closing office hours but later he realized that no work was affected and admitted so to me. Our difficult position, in some cases, is perhaps of our own making.

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