Dec 1 2011   9:49PM GMT

Will an IT services organization put CIOs back in the basement?

Linda Tucci Linda Tucci Profile: Linda Tucci

Something I heard about IT services organizations has been rattling around in my brain this week.

I was interviewing a CIO-turned-analyst for a story about the value of giving IT employees “line of sight” to strategic business objectives. The question was whether it was important that individual employees understand the connection between what they do on a daily basis and the business’s strategic objectives. Not just CIOs and IT management, mind you, but the guy who screws the server into the rack. Wasn’t this just another variation on IT and business alignment?

“I stopped thinking about IT alignment and started thinking about integration a long time ago,” my CIO-turned-analyst said.

Then out of the blue — or so I thought at the time — he said that what worried him was all the talk about the benefits of building an IT services organization and of running IT as a business-within-a-business. Running IT as a business was all well and good, he said, but were CIOs flirting with danger?

“The flip side is that there is a disconnect to the actual business you serve,” he said. The CIO/CEO of this “business within a business” is so consumed by the cost, the quality, the timeliness, the efficiency of IT services that he loses sight of his strategic role as a partner to the business.

Running IT as a business is something I write a lot about in one form or another. IT cost transparency — the ability of CIOs to know not only how much they’re spending but also why — is a goal of a lot of the CIOs I consult. Building a services organization helps sort out how the business consumes IT resources. My colleague Christina Torode has identified the transformation of IT into a services business — to an enterprise within an enterprise — as a major trend.

Still, my expert on the phone had a good point about IT services. Was this a route back down to the basement? To the CIO as the guy who runs IT? Or are we just confused about how an IT services organization runs? What are your thoughts?

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