CIO Straight Talk - Issue 9 - 74
strategy to capitalize on that. We could create a
brand new revenue stream by selling information
about the use of our products."
So she set up a "Business-IT Strategy Board"
that met regularly to discuss big questions
concerning the impact of technology on the
business. Now Kathy didn't go in there and
say, "This is our technology strategy, and I own
that, and I'm going to hand it over to you, or
rain it down upon you." At the same time, she
wasn't relieving her fellow executives of the
responsibility of thinking about the impact of
technology on the business. What she did was
get all of these executives, who were used to
focusing on their own vertical or functional
piece of the pie, to work together. In the digital
economy, teams need to work together to think
about how the company should respond to
fundamental changes and pivot accordingly. Yes,
technology is at the heart of these changes, but
they go way beyond technology.
In creating that strategy board, Kathy was
sharing the responsibility for technology/
business strategy among the executives on the
board. The responsibility no longer belonged
to IT alone.
What about "shadow IT," where there is no
sharing, where the business goes off and
purchases technology on its own?
In my book, Jim Fowler, the CIO of GE, says,
"People graduating from college and joining
our companies don't even think they need an
IT function. They're going to create their own
digital tools and algorithms and databases
and whatever they need." Rather than think
of shadow IT as a nuisance, CIOs should reconceptualize it as end-user innovation. In fact,
if they can create a development platform that
allows everybody in the company to be an
innovator, but to do it in an environment that's
secure, scalable, and cost effective, the entire
organization stands to benefit from it.
It's not just that IT needs to be the business and
be in business meetings and be proactive and
shape business agendas. We've been talking
about that for a long time. Actually, IT has to let
the business into IT. Development, delivery, and
maintenance of IT cannot all be the responsibility
of IT anymore. That wall has to come down.
Are we heading toward a time when there is no
central IT function?
A divisional CIO at a very large company I talked
to recently said the company has decided to do
away with the corporate CIO position. They're
embedding finance systems and HR systems
right in the functions that use those systems.
They still have divisional CIOs in a businessfacing role, but the big enterprise CIO position
is gone. Despite this example, I don't think the
corporate CIO role is going anywhere soon, given
big-ticket corporate-wide issues like information
security. But I do think that CIOs have a chance
to step into the opportunity that digital provides
to drive the business forward with technology.
Otherwise, they'll be relegated to the sidelines,
where they'll keep things secure and cheap,
where they'll look after email and networks,
while some other "technology executive" comes
in to do all the cool, fun, innovative stuff. I
see the most forward-looking CIOs-and my
book is filled with them-thinking through how
technology is changing the fundamentals of their
company, their growth strategy, their customer
engagement. These CIOs are taking the lead
in driving digital as a capability across their
companies. As a result, some of them are taking
on new titles, like CIO and SVP of Innovation or
CIO and Chief Digital officer.
What other competencies that you describe in
your book seem to get a response from CIOs or
other technology executives?
Let me back into this with a story. Rob Lux,
the CIO of Freddie Mac was in a computer
club in high school. You know, they took apart
computers, that kind of thing. And one day this
guy from Microsoft comes to see them. He had
written to them and said he had something
he wanted them to demo. So they said, "OK,
fine." And he shows them this product, and it's
Windows. Rob, recalling the meeting, says: "It
was terrible! It only had three colors. The tiled