Changing the ‘I’ in CIO?

Published: 7 November 2012

Observing some of the debate to come out of the recent CIO Conference in Frankfurt the role of a CIO and what the ‘I’ means and stands for, has been fascinating. The role of the CIO as I perceive it, is all about enabling enhanced business performance through optimal use of technology. Healthy doses of commercial insight, pragmatic process control and business change run through all of that. That could be considered trite, it could be considered unoriginal and possibly it is. In fact I think it is stating the blindingly obvious again, but the days of a chief techie are thankfully long gone.

So why does the CIO moniker spawn such mixed responses; from ‘Chief Innovation Officer’, ‘Chief Integration Officer’ through to ‘Cheap Infrastructure Officer’, ‘Career Is Over’. We ought to take heart from this vast array of variously serious titles. On many levels they affirm the importance of the role, and the less serious ones affirm that the role has sufficient magnitude to be aped!

In my view integration is at the heart of the matter. Good integration supports collaboration. The ubiquity of technology across the enterprise, think ‘multi channel’, ‘enterprise solutions’, ‘mobile data solutions’, ‘BYOD’, all mean collaboration is critical to delivering improved business performance. But, a narrow focus upon integration as a specialism isn’t enough. It must be coupled with big picture commercial awareness. ‘Coherence and congruence’, a term borrowed from an exchange of tweets with industry analyst @colinbeveridge, brings some important context to it all. These are at the heart of the CIO’s mission.

So, where does that leave us? Probably where we instinctively knew we were all along. There is no one size fits all ‘I’. Information, intelligence, infrastructure, insight, innovation - what enterprise wouldn’t vote for all or any of these? Invariably a business gets the CIO it deserves. The most effective CIO’s are able to influence, impact and inform their businesses about the transformation that they can enable. Three more I’s, that could be matched with countless other traits beginning with a myriad of different letters! Underpinning them all is delivery. It’s the ticket to the game. And simply this means that successful CIO’s have to be multi-faceted; integral and invaluable. It would seem that the I’s have it!

Matt Cockbill, Partner, leads the Technology & EMI Practices for Berwick Partners.

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