At the board meeting of a giant food company recently, a CIO had an extraordinary facedown.
The director of marketing presented his budget, including a recurring item, a 55 million euro marketing campaign in the Baltic region. The CIO challenged this: "What reason do you have to expect better results from that campaign? It has never worked before."
The response was a dismissive "Get back into your box," from the marketing director -- who had just finished picking holes in the CIO's budget. But the CIO stood his ground, and pointed out that he was a full member of the board and entitled to take part in all the board's business. An open discussion followed, and the marketing director eventually conceded that the Baltic marketing campaign was one where the company could save some money.
This story is told by John Mahoney, a vice president and research director at Gartner Group. He thinks CIOs will have to stand their ground this way many times in future if they wish to achieve their goals in the enterprise.
Even if the CIO has no desire for empire building, he or she will have to start picking up on business issues and functioning as an equal member of the board -- simply because the board is actually crucial to the next step in his agenda. It is they who are the next target for automation.
In some respects, athough technologies keep appearing and systems need upgrading, the actual use of IT has come up against the buffers. Sales forces have been automated, customer helpdesks are in place, and projects are there to roll out things like ERP and so forth.
The thing is, that on a lot of scales, businesses are not changing as dramatically as they were expected to. And there is a simple reason for this. Technology does not change businesses. People do.
Technology is important, as a tool to make things happen differently. But the job it is supposed to change must be defined, and the people who use it must understand what it can do -- and want to make the changes that it enables.
In other words, all the ERP/CRM/EAI/BAM systems in the world will do nothing for your company, if the board doesn't buy into them. And they will not buy into anything from the IT department if the IT management is seen as a bunch of boring wire-pullers who have no understanding of the business.