Do CEOs *really* care about IT?

"Aligning business and IT" is a buzzword concept that comes up at every gathering of CIOs. Listening to technology CEO's discuss the topic at MIT's CIO Symposium, it appears little progress has made been in addressing this issue.

"Aligning business and IT" is a buzzword concept that comes up at every gathering of CIOs. Listening to technology CEO's discuss the topic at MIT's CIO Symposium, it appears little progress has made been in addressing this issue.

Today's opening panel consisted of presentations by four CEOs, each of whom discussed his view of the relationship between business and IT. Chief Correspondent for Xconomy, Wade Roush, moderated the panel, which included:

Although intended to explore successful practices, the very existence of this panel topic demonstrates the breadth and scope of the alignment problem.

Despite predictability of topic and response, the panel did offer insightful comments. I particularly liked several points from management guru, Jim Champy, who said, "CEOs don't pay attention to technology unless something breaks down." Champy added:

CIOs should participate in innovation around the company's business model, which goes beyond contributions just to product, services, and operations. Managing infrastructure is worthless if the business fails.

On the other hand, this comment from Alan Trefler reminded me why so many CIOs are in the doghouse, treated almost as second-class citizens by their organization:

IT spending often doesn't create top line growth or greater efficiency.

My take. Improving integration between IT and business requires focus and collaborative effort from both CEO and CIO. However, as with all dances, even starting to address this issue requires two committed partners.

I'd like to see a CEO seriously and publicly proclaim business / IT integration to be a strategic organizational imperative. Until that happens, and a corresponding level of resources and follow-up applied, then all this talk about alignment rings hollow.

[Image from iStockPhoto.]

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