The time is right for a new type of IT leader to emerge
In business and IT terms, the first few years of the third millennium will be remembered as the coming of the Cs. They are all over the place, not just on newly printed business cards. There are conferences, academic papers and writings galore.
We have CEO, COO, CFO etc., and in IT we have CIO, CTO, CKO and even CCO!
The C and O remain the same - C for chief, O for officer. It is the middle name that counts for everything!
In the above list, for example, we have executive, operating, financial, information, technology, knowledge and change (I have also heard of a CCO being a chief communications officer).
Our main interest today is the CIO - the new, growing term slowly replacing IT director. However, regarding the others, this is what they mean to me:
- CEO - managing director, the person in charge
- COO - the guy that does all the work, day to day, and takes the blame for everything
- CFO - posh new name for financial directors, same job as it always was
- CTO - a new technology role for technology people, largely in dot coms, but also found in
larger companies. Some IT directors are becoming CTOs
- CKO - A meaningless title If you are called this watch out - you are effectively on sabbatical!
- CCO - if this means change be warned - no one person can be held responsible for all change in
any company. If this means communication be even more warned, no one person can be accountable for
all communications. In either case, watch your back!
Regarding CIO, a term more prevalent in the US, there is a joke that it stands for career is over. The sad element of this is that it originates from IT directors themselves, which says something about how we see ourselves!
Although many people say that the title does not matter, more companies are now using the term CIO to distinguish a new type of role from the traditional IT director.
Geest, the leading producer of fresh-food, for example, deliberately advertised in the Sunday Times for a CIO, rather than IT director, to highlight the business, information, change and leadership elements of the role, and to lessen the technology element.
In my opinion, the CIO will become the default term for a new type of IT leader. The watershed timing for our industry is right to create and establish a new role. One that puts behind us the technology, for the sake of it, and recognises that a track record inside an IT department may not be the most effective training ground for business/information/people leadership.
The CIO title is an opportunity to create a new, business, board-level role, that focuses on the provision of timely and effective information, on transforming technology into real wealth for an organisation and on placing IT at the very heart of a company.
Overall, IT leaders are well poised for the future - it is on our side.
However, more important than your title, is your personality, talents and aspirations. Titles are useful for business cards, however, and three letters of any description save so much valuable space.
David Taylor's Inside Track, a provocative insight into the world of IT in business, is out now. It is published by ButterworthHeinemann Tel: 01865-88180
This was first published in October 2000