Naked CIO: One IT department, two CIOs - something just doesn't add up...

Are two heads really better than one?


Every decision will be a negotiation followed by compromise and speed of action will slow downPhoto: Shutterstock

After a recent merger, the Naked CIO finds himself sharing the tech hot seat.

How many control freaks does it take to run an IT department? Believe it or not, this is not some preamble to a pretty pathetic joke. Perhaps the funny answer would be to suggest that it is impossible to tell until proper requirements gathering has been completed.

If you laughed, it is also the real answer presented to me. After a recent merger my counterpart in the other company and I are both staying on to run the IT components and transition by committee.

I stopped managing by committee the same year I tried the collaborative networking of applications using Windows 3.11 for Workgroups. Better get the old manual out.

In theory I should be exceptionally happy. I'm still employed and roughly in the same capacity - except for mini me or, wait, perhaps I'm mini me - at least for the transitional period.

My counterpart is no lightweight - and to be fair, I respect his ability and his qualifications as I do my own. I have my own ideas on who is more suitable to lead the combined entity. Like politicians who won't disclose who they are voting for on election day, I intend to keep my answer to myself.

However, this situation produces some challenges, which I'm currently trying to get my head around. First, who is accountable and to whom? When things go wrong we may find ourselves unable to find someone willing to take responsibility. As with any merger, there will be staffing considerations and it remains unclear how these issues will play themselves out.

But my main response to the process is that I think it's inefficient, and inefficiency is something I have tried to eradicate throughout my career. Every decision will be a negotiation followed by compromise. The speed of action will slow down considerably.

To whom does the business turn for answers, council and action? What if we can't align vision and opinion - opinion is something I'm known to possess, possibly even more than skill. Will we have to go to the board each time we cannot agree?

CIO ownership not ownership by committee

Regulatory compliance is also a troubled area because accountability for governance is something that will be a key priority in the merged entity. I could go on: budget, purchase authority, staffing, policy, strategy all require ownership and not ownership by committee - at least not ideally.

But perhaps I need to adapt and try to restrain my views and work with my new colleague. This new arrangement is a concept to which I should be committed. Yet to a certain extent, doesn't it amount to a competition in which I must demonstrate I have the leadership capabilities to manage our organisation over my esteemed colleague?

How do you sign a peace treaty with one hand, while using the other to fight it out for supremacy?

Time will tell how all these factors play out. My position is simple: you can manage an organisation's IT in this way for a while but you'd be better off identifying one person to lead it, even if that one person isn't me.

No matter how much I want the role, it may turn out that way and my opinion is this process is the way forward even if I am a casualty of this approach.

Back to the jokes. How many project managers does it take to ensure an SAP implementation happens on time and on budget? None - it has never happened.