The CIO Today, or How To Give a Dog a Bad Name

In the quest for IT to be recognised as a completely integrated business function the CIO is increasingly being advised to dress, talk and walk the walk – not so much the stride, more an intelligent confidence of posture – of business whilst at the same time driving the technology services that underpin the modern corporation.

But ….. What’s in the title and what does it really stand for? Is it just a sop to the ambitious technologist who desires/needs/craves C-Suite recognition or is it a true reflection of the real role these once purely IT leaders must play in shaping and delivering to the bottom line.

The problem is in the name. Chief Information Officer … what is that … Chief of Information …mmm …and, what else to do you do ….are you a librarian …. keep the keys to the filing cabinets ….. What do you do for your day job? Or are you like the CIA, Mi6 … a creature of the shadows in precious nuggets of clandestine information and secrets?

Whenever I consider this ambiguity I am reminded of a mysterious and high ranking creature from my past. An individual rarely seen but often heard from in yards of memoranda and noticeboard flyers signed with the grandiose title of Officer Commanding, Sports and Welfare, but known throughout as Darts and Dice … thus DaD or Daddy and diminished accordingly.

Try it for yourself … ask someone not in IT, but working inside a business unit, what a CIO does or is. Now ask someone inside IT the same question. Bet you get the identical answer. At core they will answer that the CIO is the head of IT and will completely fail to recognise the complexity, variation and consequence of the role that has evolved over the last 10 years or so. Totally not their fault, unless it was the CEO who responded in that manner. Consider IT’s own crusade for an identity beyond that of cost sinkhole and poorly communicated complexity.

I will try try and examine, over the next 10 blogs or so, some of the many nuances of the job description that distinguishes the modern Chief Information Officer as a C grade business executive who just happens to be also responsible for the technologies that underpin the success of a 21st Century business.

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