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CIOs Don't Need Two Heads to Wear Two Hats

The holy grail of post-recession business will be profitable growth. The very idea of profitable growth is full of contradiction, as growth generally requires investment. With revenues unlikely to outpace that investment in what economists are predicting will be an anemic, drawn-out recovery, companies that have already been doing a lot of cost cutting will have to become even more efficient. This will put unusual pressure on executives to place the right bets when it comes to investments (based on strong customer insight and market knowledge). And it will require excellent management abilities and flexible, responsive, lower-cost IT.

The following presentation focuses on what the mandate for profitable growth will mean for CIOs and their organizations in 2010. I believe IT will have to become more operationally efficient AND deliver agility and innovation, that CIOs will have the great opportunity to delivery operational excellence and all kinds of tech-driven innovation as well.

Some people believe these two areas of focus are conflicting – that a leader (for example, a CIO) or an organization (for example, IT) can be good at one or the other but not both at the same time. They argue that when it comes to tech-enabled innovation, CIOs should offer advice but leave the heavy lifting to product designers and marketers. I disagree. What do you think?

Since the slides themselves are mostly just images, I suggest you view it on my Slideshare page, where you will also be able to view the speaker notes that make up the meat of the talk.

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  1. First, I want you to create my next slide deck!

    Secondly, I appreciate the link to my post that addresses this issue. I actually think we are mostly in agreement, but that we differ in degree. While I see the CIO in a consultative role to the production/operations side of the business, I think you would allow the CIO to take direct ownership of those roles. The CIO is still providing the crucial knowledge in terms of technical savvy, but the responsibility component has changed.

    I’ve had some long and quite valuable conversations around this, driven by my blog post and others. This is a clear point of discussion among CIOs, and I think is affected by our companies as well. Technology companies are more comfortable with your view of the multi-hatted CIO; non-tech companies seem to like the single hat model.

    As we shared separately, this would make a great CIO panel discussion sometime!

  2. Maybe our disagreement is more a matter of semantics. I interpret “consultative” as a fairly removed role with no direct accountability. I think the CIO has to have a greater role than that. We do agree on one critical point — the companies that will do tech-enabled innovation most successfully will be those where there is a good model for cross-functional partnership. I haven’t seen a whole lot of those out there.

  3. Excellent presentation. I love the images, it captures the message and concepts right on. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Archana Bharatee08 Oct 2009 05:59:54

    I agree that Operational IT efficiency is not a good enough goal for a CIO.

    More and more companies need to leverage the web and other channels to sell and CIOs have an increasingly important role to play in Product Innovation and Strategy. You also need Product designers and Marketers to be an important part of Product Inovation and Strategy. This is ideally done by a cross-function team.

    Who leads such a team and is accountable for it in a specific organisation needs to be decided within that organisation’s context. You will need some one who would be a champion for the new product/innovation/strategy and will be willing to drive it internally.

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