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The Role of a CIO: Defining "World-Class"

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In a world-class environment, the CIO is responsible for demonstrating the relationship between strategic technology initiatives and the long-term success of the firm. Here's how you can sharpen your focus on this goal.
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Introduction: Defining "World-Class"

What is the definition of a "world-class" environment? Such an environment consists of the following:

  • Executive managers educated and committed to the enterprise

  • Business goals and objectives completely aligned for success

  • Strategic decisions that accommodate a rapidly changing dynamic business environment

  • Continuous cost-effectiveness

  • Common architecture (tools, standards, etc.)

  • Blossoming individuals instead of drowning individuals in a bureaucratic environment

  • Culture in which honesty, mutual respect, and job satisfaction flourish

To build a world-class IT organization, your organization has to be designed to exceed the enterprise's strategic goals while still nurturing individuals to achieve exceptional productivity and job satisfaction, thus providing the enterprise with a vision that's meaningful to every individual. The more meaningful it becomes to the people involved, the greater the effort that will be exerted by them to bring about success. A mission or vision that's "owned" by the organization and not by the individuals will provide mediocre results—just bricklayers earning wages. If the mission or vision is owned by individuals, however, you get cathedrals.

IT executives need to unite the business by being one with the business. What will it take? All individuals must be convinced that they're a valuable element of the business. Consider the following quotes from The CIO Desk Reference (Metagroup, 2001):

In organizations where IT is viewed as extremely critical to the business, today's CIO has not only realized that marketing the IT organization furthers the awareness that IT adds value to the business, but also has acted on that realization through concerted efforts to market IT.

...[M]ore than 70% of Global 2000 organizations perceived their IT units as supporting the business: They have a cost center, "just-keep-the-lights-on," service-utility mentality that maintains IT should be mostly transparent to the rest of the business. If things are going well, no one knows the IT organization is there. If things are going badly, it gets noticed.

...[L]eading CIOs are focused on bringing the full value of information to the enterprises bottom line.

...[B]ecause business exists more and more at the discretion of information, IT organizations need to sell to their business colleagues the fact that IT can and should be leveraged for business value and growth. Marketing the IT organization increases the correct perception that IT adds value to the business...marketing the IT organization raises the enterprise's recognition of its dependence on the IT organization and helps ensure the CIO is (and is perceived to be) a business partner.

IT needs to partner successfully with the business. The best way to achieve this goal is by IT organizing itself to respond to the needs of individual business groups. This requires a planning process that, when tightly integrated with each of the business groups, establishes enterprise-wide vision where all of these needs can be met. This can only be accomplished by establishing working relationships at individual and group levels with all business partners, in which business teams (including IT as a "business") can work together. Enterprise infrastructure is the only IT project. Whether IT is responsible for 10% of the tasks or 90% of the tasks, IT is merely a member of a business team led by a business project champion. All projects require business unit champions and business project champions.

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