CXO

Why the CIO isn't cutting it anymore

CIOs, at least as we know them, aren't cutting it anymore. Here's why and here's how to think about IT leadership going forward.

In 1986, when BusinessWeek introduced “Management’s Newest Star,” inviting us to “Meet the Chief Information Officer,” the idea of adding anyone else to the C-Suite was not only revolutionary, it was frightening.  Business computing was still a burgeoning field.  Typewriters and paper files, the status quo.  A CIO wasn’t just a new officer: a CIO was a new way of doing things. Everything.

And yet, less than 30 years later, it feels as if the CIO role has always been there: making decisions on key hardware and software purchases, working with his business-side counterparts to determine how to align software and strategy, monitoring new trends and technologies to determine which are worth implementing and which should be ignored.  It’s hard to imagine any mid- to large-sized businesses without a CIO on board.

But here’s a secret: CIOs, at least as we know them, aren’t cutting it anymore.  Their role has become so necessary, so counted-upon, that they spend most of their time on tactical execution, thinking, if not one day at a time, then certainly one purchase, or implementation, or project, at a time.

And so the communication between IT and business, and between both departments and the CEO, can suffer.  Let the CIO worry about technology.  Let the COO worry about business.  And bring on the Chief Automation Officer (CAO) to bridge the gap between business and IT, ensuring that both departments communicate efficiently and effectively.  While some individual business processes and some IT processes are already automated, the CAO can look at them as parts of a whole automation strategy.

We spoke with Tijl Vuyk, the Founder and CEO of Redwood Software, who has seen this shift first hand through his career with Redwood and the customers they work with. Here is our Q&A with Mr. Vuyk:

1. It doesn't seem that long ago that the CIO title was new, and a way for tech to get a seat at the executive table. Now it's hard to imagine any mid- to large-sized business without a CIO on board. But you don't think the CIO role cuts it anymore. Why is that?

For decades, the C-level has dealt with the challenges of aligning business and IT to meet corporate goals. As market environments and expectations have changed, corporate leadership has always adapted and expanded. For most companies today, the heavy responsibility of building efficient, accurate and managed IT processes that support the business falls on the shoulders of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) and his or her department-among many other tasks. As information technology (IT) and the processes it supports have become more pervasive and complex, the role of the CIO has also become increasingly complex.

With the rise of the "connected enterprise," mass-scale digital analytics (Big Data) and a wide range of automation opportunities that combine business and IT goals, company leadership must once again rethink how they manage and use technology for competitive advantage. It's truly a challenge for a CIO to touch all of the different types of technology needed within a business, as today the word "technology" encompasses many, many business and operational activities. One such activity is automation.

Automation is a special area that unites operational policies, repeated activities, resources and people in such a pervasive way that companies need to approach it with a coordinated view. It needs accountability all the way up to the C-level. Best practices show that 75% of all automation is repeatable across processes; 25% is customized for specific requirements. Companies can gain tremendous efficiency, consistency and quality all at once with carefully implemented, enterprise-wide automation.

When organizations look at automation in a holistic and focused way from the highest level, they can regain control and value from their existing IT enterprise while they move ahead of the competition. They can stop duplicating tasks and do more in less time. To do all of this effectively, they will need a Chief Automation Officer (CAO).

2. What roles are you seeing for tech executives going forward and how will they differ from that of the CIO?

The CAO will be responsible for organizing and coordinating all of the enterprise processes under a single value chain and one set of governance rules. Much like an enterprise architect, they will be responsible for the architecture and implementation of an enterprise-wide approach to automation.

They will also need to understand (like the CIO, CFO or CEO) business process fundamentals together with the technological requirements that keep the business moving ahead every day. They've got to be extremely practical. They will have decision-making abilities for the business and IT. Their job will be to make sure that the company uses automation wisely, correctly and pervasively.

Of course, the CIO still has plenty to do. He or she can focus on technology for transformation of the company in different ways. Many analysts and industry-watchers have noted that CIOs need to refine their focus in our changing digital world. For example:

Mark McDonald, group vice president and Gartner Fellow, said in a statement: "The world outside IT changed creating a quiet crisis for IT. Demands have increased in a world grown dynamic and digital. The harder CIOs work tended to current concerns, the less relevant IT became. CIOs know that the future rests in not repeating the past but in extending IT by hunting and harvesting in a digital world."

In a 2010 survey by CIO magazine, 43 percent of the CIOs surveyed reported to the CEO, and 60 percent of the respondents listed "long-term strategic thinking and planning" as one of their critical leadership competencies. That can be tough for a CIO who is spending most of his or her time simply managing the overall IT enterprise.

CIOs have played a balancing act for years now, between business processes and IT management. Improvements in both areas can mean success for any business, but companies must create roles that make this success achievable. Having a CIO and a CAO performing separate but complementary jobs would most certainly help.

3. How should an enterprise go about implementing the new role of CAO?

Companies can find candidates for the new CAO position within their own ranks-in the IT department, existing enterprise architects, or within other departments, like finance. They could also find them outside of the organization, but the best candidates should understand as many of the processes at the core of the business as possible. They would see business processes and the IT that supports them as a single ecosystem.

The CAO would look at all company resources-people, infrastructure and processes-as a machine that should function at top efficiency and accuracy to achieve business goals. They will create automated supply chains for information and other processes at the very core of the business. Their role will be critical to the next phase of IT development - the re-engineering of corporate IT to function logically and completely. This will require both a focused vision for automation and a spirit of collaboration with every stakeholder in the company. They would work with the entire C-level as a team.

By assessing all processes within the organization and analyzing them to see which ones can be united, simplified and/or eliminated through automation, the CAO can build business processes that work like clockwork. They can connect dependent processes and enable technology to provide consistency, quality and control at every level of the business. This will take a special kind of person who, like the CIO, can see the potential for improvement, how to get there, and what that will mean for the business. Unlike the CIO, the CAO's focus will be sharply on how automation can accomplish these goals.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

46 comments
cralton
cralton

Between a CIO and CTO, there is no need for a CAO for most organisations under 10,000 seats. They are better off with a CTO only (generally possessing all the skill of a CIO anyway plus Technical & Logical ICT proficiency with none of the fluffy nonsense many CIOs are full of). Of course for a complex enterprise or large global entity, it may be better to spit the responsibility between a CTO, CIO, COO and even a CAO as long as they all communicate and collaborate effectively as level peers under the CEO, not under the CFO.

greevous
greevous

  You totally lost me when you said:


"The CAO will be responsible for ....  Much like an enterprise architect, they will be responsible for the architecture and implementation of an enterprise-wide approach to automation."

and THEN you said:

"They've got to be extremely practical."

"Enterprise architects", almost by definition, are _NOT_ extremely practical.... and I know _LOTS_ of them.

rajdaroch
rajdaroch

CIO role always was and is superfluous! It has never added any real value to an organization, other than, reporting up the command. Any one in senior technology role must remain hands-on, to some degree, to add real value to the organization.

What an organization must have to remain competitive externally and, to perpetually grow internally, is CKC - Chief Knowledge Creator. To focus on data and information is a waste of effort and energy! It is the Knowledge (implicit and explicit) that must be put to business use to ensure continual success. The frequency with which managers, nowadays, ignore or let knowledge walk away from their organizations, is akin death by thousand-cuts. It is knowledge that leads to innovation, which makes managing organization knowledge imperative.

ocayasso
ocayasso

Automation in organizations are not holistic and are unfocused from the highest levels. Apparently, excess redundancy is causing this situation, so we are to assume that duplicated function is the real obstacle. If we were to use Database Management as an analogy and abstraction, then, this would be the familiar process of data redundancy in the ER Model. One handles this with functional data normalization. The question is --- is it FUNCTION that the CEO needs to address or is it STRUCTURE? Should the question be WHY this is happening before anticipating a WHO as a resolve? Function follows structure. However, a structure agenda can affect the function in both positive and negative ways. To expect a CIO to affect the function of the entire business process requires the cooperation of the C-Suite. If there are power play dynamics in the C-Suite, then the CIO needs to have clout. Without that build-in influential relationship, any strategic plan --- no matter how competent the CIO --- goes nowhere. Strategic, Analytical (Tactical), Operational. That rigid, structural layer has forever guided successful and failed enterprises. It is the circular flow of information and coordinated relationship within its layers, however, that dominates this ever-changing, dynamic function of specified result [ http://www.information-management.com/news/1055164-1.html]. Structure, of its own, is never the whole story.

ocayasso
ocayasso

"When organizations look at automation in a holistic and focused way from the highest level, they can regain control and value from their existing IT enterprise while they move ahead of the competition. They can stop duplicating tasks and do more in less time. To do all of this effectively, they will need a Chief Automation Officer (CAO)." Thus currently, automation in organizations are not holistic and are unfocused from the highest levels. Apparently, excess redundancy is causing this situation, so we are to assume that duplicated function is the real obstacle. If we were to use Database Management as an analogy and abstraction, then, this would be the familiar process of data redundancy in the ER Model. One handles this with functional data normalization. The question is --- is it FUNCTION that the CEO needs to address or is it STRUCTURE? Should the question be WHY this is happening before anticipating a WHO as a resolve? Function follows structure. However, a structure agenda can affect the function in both positive and negative ways. To expect a CIO to affect the function of the entire business process requires the cooperation of the C-Suite. If there are power play dynamics in the C-Suite, then the CIO needs to have clout. Without that build-in influential relationship, any strategic plan --- no matter how competent the CIO --- goes nowhere. Strategic, Analytical (Tactical), Operational. That rigid, structural layer has forever guided successful and failed enterprises. It is the circular flow of information and coordinated relationship within its layers, however, that dominates this ever-changing, dynamic function of specified result [ http://www.information-management.com/news/1055164-1.html]. Structure, of its own, is never the whole story.

ocayasso
ocayasso

"When organizations look at automation in a holistic and focused way from the highest level, they can regain control and value from their existing IT enterprise while they move ahead of the competition. They can stop duplicating tasks and do more in less time. To do all of this effectively, they will need a Chief Automation Officer (CAO)." Thus currently, automation in organizations are not holistic and are unfocused from the highest levels. Apparently, excess redundancy is causing this situation, so we are to assume that duplicated function is the real obstacle. If we were to use Database Management as an analogy and abstraction, then, this would be the familiar process of data redundancy in the ER Model. One handles this with functional data normalization. The question is --- is it FUNCTION that the CEO needs to address or is it STRUCTURE? Should the question be WHY this is happening before anticipating a WHO as a resolve? Function follows structure. However, a structure agenda can affect the function in both positive and negative ways. To expect a CIO to affect the function of the entire business process requires the cooperation of the C-Suite. If there are power play dynamics in the C-Suite, then the CIO needs to have clout. Without that build-in influential relationship, any strategic plan --- no matter how competent the CIO --- goes nowhere. Strategic, Analytical (Tactical), Operational. That rigid, structural layer has forever guided successful and failed enterprises. It is the circular flow of information and coordinated relationship within its layers, however, that dominates this ever-changing, dynamic function of specified result [ http://www.information-management.com/news/1055164-1.html]. Structure, of its own, is never just the whole story.

ocayasso
ocayasso

"When organizations look at automation in a holistic and focused way from the highest level, they can regain control and value from their existing IT enterprise while they move ahead of the competition. They can stop duplicating tasks and do more in less time. To do all of this effectively, they will need a Chief Automation Officer (CAO)." Thus currently, automation in organizations are not holistic and are unfocused from the highest levels. Apparently, excess redundancy is causing this situation, so we are to assume that duplicated function is the real obstacle. If we were to use Database Management as an analogy and abstraction, then, this would be the familiar process of data redundancy in the ER Model. One handles this with functional data normalization. The question is --- is it FUNCTION that the CEO needs to address or is it STRUCTURE? Should the question be WHY this is happening before anticipating a WHO as a resolve? Function follows structure. However, a structure agenda can affect the function in both positive and negative ways. To expect a CIO to affect the function of the entire business process requires the cooperation of the C-Suite. If there are power play dynamics in the C-Suite, then the CIO needs to have clout. Without that build-in influential relationship, any strategic plan --- no matter how competent the CIO --- goes nowhere. Strategic, Analytical (Tactical), Operational. That rigid, structural layer has forever guided successful and failed enterprises. It is the circular flow of information and coordinated relationship within its layers, however, that dominates this ever-changing, dynamic function of specified result [ http://www.information-management.com/news/1055164-1.html]. Structure, of its own, is never just the whole story.

hans16
hans16

I never did like the title of CIO. I did not convey anything. You can call this person anything you want. The key is that whoever fill the top technical position in a company needs to be well versed in the business of the business and how to leverage any technology to enhance the business. In today's world this is intercommunication between computer systems in a meaningful and user supportive manner. You can call it what you want... CIO CAO CTO take your choice it all the same, just roll with the technology.

Gbaglione
Gbaglione

I agree with the premise outlined in the article, but I disagree with the conclusion. If the problem is that CIOs are not adding enough value to the organization, the answer isn't create another C-level position. The answer is the CIO needs to adapt or die. Once you cloudify your email, cloudify your file storage, and cloudify your commodity business functions, what's left? I like Gartner's Pace-layer model, which basically states that it's the differentiating layer of business apps that add value to the org. Of course, if you've ever been involved in the inner workings of an IT shop you know that just Keeping The Lights On is massively time consuming. I have been there, done that, it sucks. Incidentally, if you want to know how we solve the KTLO problem, we wrote a whitepaper about it. You can download it here: http://www.outsystems.com/it-innovation/ . Sorry it's behind an email wall. TLDR; CIOs are going to be out of a job if they can't figure out how to do more than just buy IT, they need to bridge the gap between strategy and technology.

TRgscratch
TRgscratch

the CIO (according to the article) is spending all his time on short-term, tactical, "when should we rollout Windows 7 ?" -type issues, so the CxO suits need someone at their table who thinks long-term, and stock-price, like they do another question is: why is the CIO so tactical? could it be that s/he hasn't delegated / doesn't trust anyone on staff to make a decision that costs over $10000 ?

thomas.f.coleman
thomas.f.coleman

The author makes many good points. I was pleased with the many references to PROCESSES although adding the "IT" in front of the "process" word isn't appropriate. It is about BUSINESS PROCESSES that IT is here to enable. Further, as others have said, the CAO is the wrong title. As research companies like Gartner and Forrester make clear, automation is the LOWEST form of improvement. It isn't about automation it is about process design and improvement and IT are tools. The Chief Process Officer or Transformation Officer are more appropriate titles. Automation is more like traditional CTO work which may be justified as part of the CIO's job if he/she does not already have a strong staff. Let's not take failed CIO's and add CAO to make it work. Let's transform the CIO. If you look at models like the balanced scorecard and especial the strategy map, the top two layers are financial and customer (value proposition). The third level down is PROCESS and these are what deliver the customer and financial value props above them. The misunderstood bottom layer is learning and growth that may be better titled "resource" which is where IT and HR live. So IT must become "Business Technology" to integrate, not merely align. HR must get engaged in change management and talent management. IT and HR need to be partners. All this isn't about adding a layer and new title -- CAO -- to the current largely unsuccessful CIO mantra as it is often played out. It is about transforming IT and the CIO role whether you call it CPO and BT or not. Again, automation is important but automation and efficiency does not necessarily result in strategic differentiation and effectiveness. The CPO is about strategic effectiveness not merely automation and efficiency.

Mabrick
Mabrick

The problem isn't with the CIO, and adding a CAO won't solve the problem. The issue is the rest of the 'C' managers won't step up to the plate and learn that IT is no longer just a business multiplier, it is far more integral than that. In this day and age, running any world spanning business is not possible without IT any more than it is possible to run the business without distribution channels. In fact, IT is likely one of those distribution channels. Adding more managers to be the interface between ludditic CEOs, CFOs and COOs will not change the underlying issue. Corporate 'C' levels need to learn business in the 21st century means IT *is* business. They need to expand their understanding - or fail and allow more technologically adept business managers to take their place.

Poli Tecs
Poli Tecs

Yea.. lets institutionalize bureaucracy into the private sector... BRILLIANT! NOOOOT!!!! This has to be the stupidest idea I have seen in IT management YET! No matter the size of the org., the CIO / CTO et al have a role - interface with the other "O's" AND their department. This would be the same stupid idea if the accounting department was spending money of frivolous crap so they bring in another middle manager layer to prevent it. Ummm.. HELLO! McFLY! You just cost the org MORE MONEY! This is just simply DUMB and more exporting of stupid government management ideas to the private sector.

havancourt
havancourt

As I remember from the late 80s, the goal of the CIO was to approach information in a manner that the CFO approach financial issues. However, organizations kept their Comptroller and Treasuer, but then added the CFO. However, many organizations simply moved the VP of IT (or what ever the title was) to the Chief Information Officer. Instead of an automation officer, and the added drag of an additional 'C' level individual that crosses organizational boundaries (and potentially introduces operational confustion), why not provide the CIO the correct operational executive level leadership, that will allow then to truly look at information and its use.

eSalesSA
eSalesSA

This is nothing new. Manufacturing companies have struggled with technology management boundaries for decades as data processing tools arose out of the accounting side while process management tools were used in factory floor automation. It was a pretty simple decision for IT to absorb telecom but SCADA and PLCs are different animals altogether. Then came ERP and the ability to feed production schedules to the factory floor while getting back work in progress data for use in sales and shipping depts. A good CIO has a fundamental understanding of how computing technology impacts/supports the company sort/long term strategies. Call the CIO a CAO or CTO, it is still the same skills requirement. Coming up with a new name for the same old function is not innovative thinking... It merely adds obfuscation to already acronym heavy conversation.

tbatty
tbatty

CIO, CAO, CTO, COO, CFO, ...E-I-E-I-O. The Chief Executive needs a team of executive level experts who thoroughly understand the whole business enterprise, who specialize in their particular areas of focus, and who can contribute to and implement the CEO's vision. Just making more "chief" roles or position descriptions is not the solution. The CEO must assemble and maintain his/her team of the right people to lead and manage the enterprise, whatever they are called. It's not about being a "chief," it's about getting the right jobs done well.

tkole2002
tkole2002

If I read this correctly, the CAO role is being invented not out of a new need in this business, but to relieve the CIO of some of his responsibilities? I don't see the point, seeing as they'll both need the same skill set and similar experience and ability to function effectively

8087
8087

Re-vectoring the CIO role, creating a CAO role ... these are both potential solutions to a what I perceive as a common problem, and one that I think the author has touched on. Stepping away from solutions a minute, my personal observation is that we have a dichotomy in many large companies: the presence of a lot of high-tech tools while at the same time a lot of folks are basing daily decisions using humongous spreadsheets that are fed/maintained by an invisible army of people. What I feel is missing is a resource to step in and help folks make better use of what's already available (as opposed to adding something new and $$) and evolve processes and skills down that path. Folks furiously maintaining 100MB spreadsheets so that operations can keep running aren't dumb - they are overworked, don't know how to put in place a better way and feel very alone with that struggle. If this is indeed as common a problem as I fear, getting it out there is a first big step and then healthy discussion with various ways of dealing with it will be another.

phscnp
phscnp

I agree with other comments that the CAO definition just describes the CIO's job. But the perception seems to be that the CIO is not doing that job in many companies. It sounds like these CIOs need to delegate more effectively and/or address the political or other issues that prevent delegation. Of course, one issue CIOs may face is they have to "herd cats" so delegation may not be easy. I imagine that's one reason some IT departments develop deep hierarchy. If you have access to the CEB CIO Leadership Council, there is much discussion of how to reorganize the IT Department to solve some of the issues mentioned in this article. IT is seen as evolving to support End-to-End IT Services. The "Factory" model outlined by @Ks2chuldt is the common expectation of IT today. In line with being more strategic, the CIO needs to leapfrog this, if it is not already in place, and prepare first to support business oriented services and, later, tight integration with the business. Tying IT with Business counterparts is a cultural issue that has to be driven by the CIO and supported by the CEO. CIOs that came from a technical world may speak a language that is not understood throughout the C Suite, and then respond by sticking with that language rather than adopting the language of their peers. The COO says, "we need time and safety rules to mop the store floor," not, "We have defined maintenance windows as shown in this 800 line spreadsheet to facilitate RFM (retail floor maintenance), based on our determination of the overall system architecture." The CFO says, "We'll be short $1M next week if we don't make a change", not "We have brought on consultants from the illustrious firm Earnest but Old, to assist with analysis of an apparent financial performance anomaly. Preliminary estimates indicate performance is less than optimal, but we may find this is not the case; we should have more information when the consultants finish their study next year."

ocayasso
ocayasso

Manage more with less. When economic downturn occurs - manage more with lesser. Cut back on equipment and human labor. When economic upturn returns - management was able to operate with lesser, so why boost hiring? Why hire at past rate wages? why upgrade? Meantime, technological rate of college graduate decreases. Amount of work doesn't justify career investment. Companies complain that they aren't enough technical graduates, so they must import alien workers or outsource overseas. It is no wonder that being a CIO is not a lucrative career. Who wants to put up with such headaches.

Yangtze
Yangtze

I thought the idea of adding more layers to the business environment died in the 1980s??? Why do we keep doing this? Create a bridge between the CIO and COO? BS!!! This is the reason NOTHING gets accomplished successfully within IT. Why can't the CIO and the COO talk directly? Another layer creates yet another opportunity for miscommunication. The "old" CIO was once an off-shoot of the CFO. The source of ALL (yes, I said ALL!) business data comes thru the Accounting function. Any other data (i.e., demographics, etc) come from outside the company. A good CIO should know how to marry all this together. It's not a function of automation. It's a function of the data itself.

staluk
staluk

So what role will a Chief Architect and/or Enterprise Architect play? The activities and responsibilities of the CAO is similar to those expected from a Chief Architect and Enterprise Architect. So what is the need for this new role? Or is the CAO is the new avatar of Chief Architect?

Ks2chuldt
Ks2chuldt

Through the thread there are areas that I for one agree with and there are areas that I disagree with. Many companies face a massive challenge in that the leadership demands more output from the same and, in many instance, possibly even less personnel which creates an environment – specifically in the services departments – in which higher level personnel are operating at levels two or three positions below where they should be operating. Case in point - the IT department I lead has decreased by 50% over the last 3 to 4 years but the amount of applications supported has increased. This effectively means that I, as the CIO, am again at times operating at an analyst, developer, architect and executive layer. A solution to this dilemma requires a change in thinking to run IT like a factory. By creating 3 areas of focus; an infrastructure wing, an application (integration) wing and a service delivery wing. Each area being headed up by an individual specialist architects with a mile deep view on their areas of expertise. An Enterprise Architect or Process Specialist can then be appointed to follow a process view on all business processes - a mile wide view spanning business and the three wings created. The EA identifies projects where consolidated, automated processes can be adopted and rolled out to solve several areas of concern and effectively cover the loss of personnel aligning with the business need. This person can then populate a project team that spans automation engineers, developers, business analysts, business professionals and engineers to implement the proposed automated change. A typical BPM solution. Using this approach can again move the CIO role back into a strategic business partner role. Irrespective what you call it a role is required that aligns the business need with a technology need and a final solution while ensuring good IT governance is maintained. It has always been my understanding that this requirement classically fell into the lap of the CIO. By letting the CIO operate where they must will eliminate the need for a CAO.

ocayasso
ocayasso

Every CIO is likely to bring in their management style into the company. If a CIO comes from a management path, they usually lack the technological skills to lead techies in an absolute way. If the CIO comes from the technical path (in the case where programmers and IT managers promotion) it is a detriment to management acumen needed. It is rare that a combination of both skill sets can be found, Although Colleges and University have setup a curriculum whereby they combine management and technical courses, not many of such graduates get to be CIOs. Information Technology is still a relatively new department in the annals of business history, so it struggles within the political structure of a corporation. MBAs are likely to be chosen for a CIO role, but usually lack the long technical exposure of a technical career. My experience reveals to me that, even though graduating with a BA in Management Information System, I still had to make a decision as to whether I wanted to stay in the management business or the tech business. I opted to stay rooted in the technical side since that's where I derived the best satisfaction in the business process. CIOs, for the most part, are expected to manage personnel, focus on the product and maneuver themselves politically in the business; as to where technical side is less influential in the board room. When tech-savvy CIOs in the same position are in charge, then they lack that needed political maneuvering to influence their peers; either by lack of management skills or the preoccupation of being deeply focus on the technical end of the house. The CAO sounds to me like what Systems Analyst used to be in the past. A CIO with a great team of Systems Analyst could be the better answer. The breadth of business process and technical knowledge falls under the Systems Analyst jurisdiction. If they are deeply ingrained in Systems Thinking, then they can provide the holistic approach lacking in most Corporation nowadays. The Organization inherent nature is to divide and specialize into departments that are often not in sync with each other. So the business process tend to get lost in the shuffle. It is up to the System Analyst to place this into focus by applying both the business and technological process into perspective and helping to guide the CIO decisions. The CIO in turn can concentrate more on the management aspect. This does not mean that CIO does not need to be grounded in technology. It just means that he/she has to shift from one skill set to the other when it is applicable; but more importantly, command the respect of his technical subordinates. It is this flexibility that is not inherent of CIOs today. Keeping up with management AND technological advancement is challenging. We are pressed to find someone with an equal, excellent aptitude in both. This is where C-peers need to realize the dilemma CIOs confront, instead of gauging them in their own management expectations. CIOs are expected to wear two hats in order to be efficient and effective in that organization. Not doing so, creates the illusion that another position need to be added to the hierarchy. Adding does not always provide the best solution when functionality is what needs to be re-arranged or actually addressed in a holistic manner.

gary
gary

I agree with LocoLobo, as described the CAO role sounds like the CIO. Is this because too many CIO's have focused on the technology (a Chief Technology Officer?). Maybe all that is required is for the CIO to step up to their role and find good people to manage the technology, software, projects, etc.?

rwnorton
rwnorton

In fact, the other C-level execs often don't consider the CIO a peer - still. I agree that CIOs need to take ownership of this problem and work on sharpening their skills to resolve it. They are partly to blame themselves. But part of the blame has to fall on the whole C-level management structure. If the roles and interrelationships of the C-level managers were properly defined, then I don't think that the problem would be as pervasive as it appears to be. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it", a mantra that pervades the opinions expressed on this forum, is so much a reality in business IT that it relegates the CIO to a minor player. Yet, it totally ignores the relative cost of fixing it later, compared to a well thought out path of upgrade and transition. It also shows a gross lack of perspective in what new technology can do for a company. Those issues are what CIOs seemingly have been totally inadequate at making business cases for. In my limited experience (I've only worked for 1 company large enough for a CIO role, and under 3 CIOs within that company), the CIO enters a new position full of enthusiasm and ideas of how to transform the crumbling infrastructure of what he has inherited into a modernized, vibrant IT organization and infrastructure management system that specializes more and more in automating the process of change, itself, so that the ongoing cost of keeping up with new developments in technology are minimized. What happens instead, is that the company recognizes that it must go through the trauma of some major upgrade in its existing infrastructure and/or software, but then trims out the ongoing "change automation" elements as being too expensive (new hardware costs, licensing costs, etc.), thus leaving the company in a position of having to go through another major upheaval 8 - 10 years down the road (and likely under a new CIO). Most CIOs would rather keep up with the latest proven releases of software, and upgrade hardware in advance of its failure - or failure to adequately support the demands. Yet, they usually consent to just falling into a role of making do with what they've got, which does not put them in a strategic role. Why is that? Is it because a business case cannot be made? Or is it because the CIOs (and the aggregate C-level management team) is incapable of making it? I think it's a question that all medium/large organizations that do not want to be a victim of the next economic downturn should constantly reassess. In truth, hardware continues to get cheaper (and even less necessary), and software costs have never again been what they used to be, before the advent of the IBM PC and MS DOS. And, every new release enhances the change automation technologies, and now the Cloud is even taking much of it out of the hands of local IT, altogether. Yes, CIOs need to step up. CAOs are not needed, except in very specialized organizations (like maybe Boeing or someone like that). And the entire C-Level management organization needs to reassess its attitude towards IT, and what that attitude is costing the company.

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

If I'm reading this right, it sounds to me like the new CAO role is the CIO. The position of CIO will become the new position of communication between the real CIO (CAO) and IT. As said above another layer of C level management. On the comment, "But here’s a secret: CIOs, at least as we know them, aren’t cutting it anymore." The same could be said for the CEO.

Stephen Wheeler
Stephen Wheeler

If it is true that some organizations are considering another layer of management 'alongside' the CIO then that says a lot about CIOs. The CFO got to where s/he is by working their way up through the ranks of a technocracy - so too did the COO, particularly if the organization is addressing materials, energy, manufacturing, medicine or is a similarly technology based enterprise. But we very rarely hear that COOs and CFOs have difficulty putting their business cases across to their fellow Board members. Nor do we hear of CFOs who are unable to establish and maintain standards for accounts, sales ledgers, budgets and so on ... COOs have to live with complex supply and partnership arrangements - like outsourcing - and the organization's Legal Counsel [i]is[/i] an outsourced supply line. What, we are therefore forced to ask, is different about CIOs? The difference appears to be a greater readiness on Boards to consider the CIO to be a lesser role - capable of being over-ruled or, at least, have their judgement questioned. This is the fault of the CIOs themselves. The CFO has to deal with day-to-day practical problems, like paying bills without maxing out the organization's credit limit while also juggling problems like the next year's funding and investment strategy and tax position. Yet CIOs often fail to match that effectiveness, because they concentrate on the wrong things. CIOs, generally speaking, do not have good general management skills. They nearly always lack gravitas, they often lack vision, they are almost all poor at presenting a business case, many make their departments opaque, they almost universally fail to understand the need for [i]business[/i] service, support, training and documentation. They are usually found in their own offices, surrounded by gear and sweaty techies, or they have to be searched-for and found in some riser or off-site server farm, while their Board team-mates are talking over which direction they want to, collectively, take the organization. CIOs typically struggle to talk the language that the business uses and they often fail to present a future development path for their remit. On this point, it could be argued that the other C Execs could learn to talk a little ICT - but most CIOs stop there: [b]What about owning the problem[/b]? When the CIO pulls an all-nighter to get that server back on-line (even if their crew is doing the work and the CIO is just sitting in an office making encouraging noises and giving moral support) they are painting a picture of themselves as tactical, short-term, barely competent and too narrowly focused. Boards need C Execs who rise above the day-to-day noise. When the OP says: [quote]The CAO will be responsible for organizing and co-ordinating all of the enterprise processes under a single value chain and one set of governance rules. Much like an enterprise architect, they will be responsible for the architecture and implementation of an enterprise-wide approach to automation.[/quote] That, to me, is the central CIO role. Establishing business-process standards that allow for the root and branch automation of those processes - [b] that is ICT[/b]. I totally agree with Kurt (previous comment) on this point. Introducing a CAO role is a nonsense even if the CIO is not quite up to their job (as most aren't). Even in a large corporation with tech-savvy staff and tens of thousands of employees splitting the ICT role in this way only introduces complexity and lengthens communication chains. If the CAO idea was implemented economy-wide it would be ruinously expensive and retrograde. What we need is: [ul][*]For other C Execs to recognise they need to have an ICT knowledge base that is at least as big as their Finance knowledge[/ul] [ul][*]For other CIOs to recognise they need to have a major upgrade to their business skills - study, learn, network, and upskill [b]outside core ICT skills and knowledge[/b][/ul] [ul][*]For ICT departments to begin recognizing the need to identify and develop some of their high-flyers[/ul]

mquinn6
mquinn6

Yes, the challenge of ever changing technology is grand but do not lessen the responsibilities of the CIO by adding more upper management. This is the downfall of MANY companies in the US and why outsourcing has become the norm - rather than the exception. Too many Chiefs and not enough Indians! Your suggestion would have the CIO reporting to the CAO if they are a "go between". I like it not. As Kurt said - just muddies the water.

kurt.lownertz
kurt.lownertz

For the majority of businesses automation consists of IT, nothing else. To invent a new role that effectively means an extra link between the CIO and CEO will not make communication more efficient, probably the opposite. In my opinion, you should instead put the effort into tightening the bonds between the IT department and the core business. The CIO role should remain (or develop into) that of a strategist, dealing with how to manage the Information of the core business in the most profitable way. To relieve the CIO, a more beneficial way would be to delegate operational management.

chiburislipbob
chiburislipbob

@greevous The word in our industry (tech) is pragmatic. Problem is the tech industry is that it moves quickly and there's always demand for skills. Management seem to think they can swap commoditised resource in and out as they wish. There's actually a tremendous amount of variation in these skills. Some self proclaimed architects seem to apply blindly apply the same academic patterns that create cumbersome and inelegant solutions. Real life sometimes requires subtle variance and creativity that can mean the difference between a solution that works and one that doesn't. It's about having the breadth and depth of APPLIED knowledge to know when to break the rules and be creative to provide what is needed for a given set of constraints. A solution for one company can have a totally different architecture to the same solution in a different company since it also needs to suit their culture and ways of doing things.  We've become obsessed with automation and making things generic. I've seen so many architects create such a mess trying to make things generic that aren't generic.The trick is to get one that knows what they're doing and has a measure of empathy for the rest of the business; also you get what you pay for.

Stephen Wheeler
Stephen Wheeler

@ocayasso  

There is some truth in this - CEOs and their teams tend to view automation  of any business process as a machine (staff included as components - HR is so named because components are simply a replaceable resource).

I have also lost count of the number of CEOs and CFOs who insist that the current process is up to standard - and thereby automate poor structure.  Then they wonder why the functions don't automate as anticipated and even after working through fire and ice to get to where they could have been on the management equivalent of a country stroll, they still don't get it.

The problem, as you rightly point out, goes right back to the beginning.  The CIO lacks clout because they don't integrate their thinking into the Board.

It is CIOs who carry the can for this kind of failure, because they lack leadership skills.  They lack other things too - as per my previous post.  Some are unlikely to be good CIOs, ever, as they worked their way up the ICT hierarchy until the Peter Principle kicked in.  But looking on the bright side many have the charisma and the nous - they just lack the business knowledge and they struggle against a ICT sector bedevilled by poor performers.


Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

What with. They have to justify any long term investment, based on short term business opportunities, and they have their best people sold out from under them on a regular basis. Never seen a shred of evidence that they are meant to add value, supervise reducing costs would be nearer. The problem is and always will be. There is no such thing as an IT strategy in a business. There is, well should be a Business Strategy, IT is then a tactic.

greevous
greevous

@Mabrick Yeah, you're right on.  Like HR, IT affects everything in most businesses now.  Unlike HR, IT cannot properly function as a "consultant organization" any longer.

Imprecator
Imprecator

The American and the Japanese corporate offices for a large multi-national corporation decided to engage in a competitive boat race. Both teams practiced hard and long to reach their peak performance. On the big day they felt ready. The Japanese team won by a mile. Afterward, the American team was discouraged by the loss. Morale sagged. Corporate management decided that the reason for the crushing defeat had to be found, so a consulting firm was hired to investigate the problem and recommended corrective action. The consultant's finding: The Japanese team had eight people rowing and one person steering; the American team had one person rowing and eight people steering. After a year of study and millions spent analyzing the problem, the firm concluded that too many people were steering and not enough were rowing on the American team. So, as race day neared again the following year, the American team's management structure was completely reorganized. The new structure: four steering managers, three area steering managers and a new performance review system for the person rowing the boat to provide work incentive. The next year, the Japanese won by two miles. Humiliated, the American office laid-off the rower for poor performance and gave the managers a bonus for discovering the problem.

rwnorton
rwnorton

There, I'll offset your negative vote with a positive one. There aren't a lot of responses to this topic, which probably says more about TechRepublic readership than anything else, but of those who have responded it seems clear that 1) there is agreement that the CIO role is not "right" as it is now in most organizations, and that 2) adding another C-level management layer is not a solution. This is an important topic, and has received better than usual responses here (well thought out and stated), but not nearly enough. Perhaps this is just the wrong forum...

Gbaglione
Gbaglione

@Tony Hopkinson I mostly agree. The role of IT is to support the business strategy, but that doesn't mean that the CIO can get away without any strategic thinking. There are important decisions that have lasting impacts and costs. Standardizing on one vendor for storage seems like it might save you money on resources and training, until year 3 rolls around and that vendor is bending you over the sink when it comes time to pay your maintenance. The problem with the CIO role is that it's usually someone who is, in their heart, a technical person, and would much rather deal with the machines all day then their executive peers, who are messy and stupid. It's an under-respected career path, but the answer is not to take away the need for the CIO to focus on strategy as this article suggests-- a better answer is for the other members of the C-suite to expect the CIO to be a real executive, and then find/train/grow one who is up to the task. It's hard, improbable even... but it's either that or be extinct in 10 years. Or worse, reporting to the CFO.

Imprecator
Imprecator

Our story begins in 1967, when a young kid from Omaha volunteers for the US Army and he's deployed to Vietman. In the middle of his deployment his platoon is tasked with taking a hill held by the VC, after a long bloody battle they manage to take it. The following week they are ordered to withdraw. 3 weeks later they're tasked with taking the hill again. The next week they're once again ordered to withdraw. This goes on for about three months. The soldier asks his platoon sargent what's the whole thing about, and the sargent answers that those orders come from the Pentagon, and they ought to know why they're asking them to do that because they have "The Big Picture". Our protagonist's tour of duty is done and he returns to Omaha. Like a lot of folks in the Military, our friend has an interest in History, he reads up that the people who gave those orders didn't know what they were doing. So he decides to find out about what this "Big Picture" thing is. Therefore, he writes to his congressman, and manages to be admitted to West Point. He graduates and gets sent to Washington to work for the DOD, as he rises through the ranks he discovers that the DOD decides things like that due to what is requested by the Government who really has "The Big Picture." Our hero resigns his commision and decides to run for Congress, he wins and is now a Senator, so he figures he'll now know what this "Big Picture" is. It turns out that as a Senator, he has to vote on laws as requested by the President, he often doesn't understand what those laws are about, but he's told that the President, who really has "The Big Picture" needs them. Our friend resigns from Congress, runs for President, and incredibly enough, he wins. "Well", he says, "now I'll find out what this 'Big Picture' thing is about". Alas, now he's asked by his big campaign contributors to make such and such decisions, he still doesn't understand why and when he asks he's told that it's for the economic well-being of the country and that those huge corporations that were his campaing contributors really have "The Big Picture". Our hero finishes his first presidential period, and doesn't run for re-election. Through his contacts, manages to get in the board of one of the largest corporations what were his primary contributors. Shotly after joining the board is the end of the fiscal year. At a board meeting, the CFO is doing a presentation where he says that it has been a very good year, that the EBITDA is way over 40%, an all time high for the company, and that to celebrate, the board is going to spend a week in Cancun, and that the Corporate Jet is waiting for them to go. As the board adjourns the meeting and everyone is preparing to leave for their well deserved celebration, our hero stands up and shouts: "What about the Big Picture?" "I'm not moving till we talk about that! WHERE'S THE BIG PICTURE?". The Chairman of the Board (who's still sitting), looks up and and says: "Oh Please, don't tell me you were at that damned hill too"

Rickochet
Rickochet

Since the U.S. lost by 1 mile the first year and 2 miles the second year, the competition was held in the U.S. since the units of measure were miles instead of kilometers. Therefore, even home-field advantage was of no help.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

is the token alien on the bridge. Not as effective as Spock though... To combat that a lot of organisations picked someone less techy so they could understand them. Problem with CTO/CIO is exactly the same one that businesses have failed to address. IT is integrated into business, management of it is not. How inserting an other manager into this will fix it, is beyond me, but I'm just a propeller head..

Imprecator
Imprecator

@Gbaglione@Tony Hopkinson

Well, from the point of view of the organization, most strategic decisions taken by the CIO are just tactics.  (in the particular case you mention, the decision the CIO makes to standarize or not standarize on storage subsystems is a tactic to reduce OPEX or keep it flat.)

Which is all well and good, however it's not what supposedly the organization CLAIMS to need from a CIO.

As for the usual discussion regarding whether a CIO should be a tech with "management skills" or someone from management with tech skills, in my experience, people who come from management and take over IT usually make very bad decisions, alienate the staff and utimately end up being replaced. In an extreme instance, at a company where I worked, the CIO (who came from MARKETING of all places) managed to have more than half the department walk out (including me) and in the end lost control of all IT infrastructure to another C level exec, the story doesn't end there, the same CIO proved to be so incompetent outsourcing the help desk that the entire company spent a whole month without an IT help desk. The said CIO was fired shortly afterwards.

Techs with "management skills" are not all that rare, but are not much better, they invest so much to become part of the C-Suite (which usually is going to see the CIO as the "token alien"  no matter if it comes from management or from the tech side) that (since the C-Suite tends to see ALL people from the tech side as irresponsible teenagers or conmen)  the CIO will still alienate staff, however his/her IT skills help avoid the disastrous decisions taken by a CIO who has not tech skills

Why do I think this? see this survey:

http://searchcio-midmarket.techtarget.com/news/2240114368/IT-salary-survey-High-earners-think-alike-regardless-of-company-size?asrc=EM_USC_16200974&utm_medium=EM&utm_source=USC&utm_campaign=20120130_Salaries%20and%20the%20midmarket%20CIO_sblanchette&track=NL-1014&ad=860582 

 Apparently the best paid CIOs tend to also have a dim view of their staff.  

Since the organization has misused the "soft skills" argument so much, any IT pro that has been at this for more than a few years (and is not looking to become a CIO) will automatically distrust upper management and so far, the C-Suite's decisions give no hint that such mistrust is misplaced.

 So, if in a few years the CIO figure removed or is formally (since for all intents and purposes it already is) reporting to the CFO, it really makes no difference to us grunts. The problem will continue to be the same: we will continue to run a sub-par infrastructure because of cost reductions, continue to take the blame for it when it fails and be layed off everytime a new fad that promises to the suits that they don't need IT staff comes along. Meh, in this "cloud driven days" even cloud providers outsource their datacenters.....

Imprecator
Imprecator

Feel free to steal it, I stole it from somewhere else as well.....

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