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Future state CIO

September 7, 2010

I was at the Oklahoma IT Symposium two weeks ago and had the pleasure of hearing Hugh Scott, VP of IS at Direct Energy, give the keynote address, Journey to the Future-State CIO: The Path to Greater Value & Sustained Relevance.

The presentation was based on two bodies of research: the work of the CIO Executive Council and of Egon Zehnder International, both of which provide a framework for how to think about the work CIOs are expected to do to make their organizations successful.

I won’t provide a detailed outline of the frameworks, because the links above take you to sites that do precisely that, but I do want to call out a few things that I found compelling in Hugh’s presentation.

The biggest thing for me was the idea that there are the three modes of operation that a CIO must excel in:

  • Functional: Keeping the lights on, delivering the core services expected of IT, like server uptime, email, desktop computing, telephony, etc.
  • Transformational: Introducing platforms that change the way an organization operates, like ERP, CRM, ECM, etc.
  • Strategic: Participating in enterprise planning with corporate leadership as a peer around things like market and product innovation, customer experience, branding, etc.

And although these basic distinctions seem a bit intuitive on the surface, Hugh presented a very robust framework built on top of these common-sense leadership buckets. So, for example, when addressing functional aspects of her job, a CIO will be systems oriented, focused on efficiency, effectiveness, and security to measure her success. A transformational CIO, in contrast, will be more process oriented, focused on the overall enterprise agility delivered by her platforms. And a strategic CIO is really focused on enabling enterprise decision making with quality intelligence as well as fostering innovation.

And even beyond just the measures of success, the framework also provides a good snapshot of what the relation between IT and the rest of the organization will be depending on the dominant mode of the CIO. Functional CIOs tend to have internally-focused shops that are viewed as service providers; transformational CIOs will also be somewhat internally focused, but be seen more often as trusted relationship partners with their end-users; finally, strategic CIOs tend to have business-oriented shops that enjoy business peer status with the rest of the organization.

There’s a lot more to the framework, but I’ll let folks who find this interesting dive into the CIO Council site itself. In the next post, however, I will dig a bit more into the implications of some of the research from Egon Zehnder International that Hugh shared, because I think it raises interesting questions about the nature of the CIO position vis a vis others at the C-level.

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