Nicholas Carr asks if CIOs are "dead weight." Perhaps, unless the CIO *is* the IT dept.

Nicholas Carr asks if CIOs are "dead weight." Perhaps, unless the CIO *is* the IT dept.

Summary: Despite what appears to be disagreement between CIO Magazine executive editor Christopher Koch and Wired Magazine editor Chris Anderson, the latter...


Despite what appears to be disagreement between CIO Magazine executive editor Christopher Koch and Wired Magazine editor Chris Anderson, the latter of which apparently walked away from the former's conference disillusioned about the role of a CIO, Nicholas Carr says the two are more in agreement that one might think:

There are a couple of different skirmishes going on here - over the identity of CIOs as well as over the value of new Web technologies - but, as I note in the FT commentary, "what’s most interesting is that, once you peel back their rhetorical differences, you find that [Anderson and Koch] are largely in agreement. They both believe that most CIOs serve mainly a control function rather than one of innovation." That's a big change from the prevailing view about the direction of the CIO job at the dawn of this decade, when it was commonly assumed that the IT department would become the locus of not just IT innovation but business innovation in general.

Carr eventually concludes:

running a tight IT ship is no easy accomplishment, particularly in a large organization - but I have no doubt that it's not the last word in the seemingly endless debate about the role of the CIO. Of all "C-level" positions, the CIO post remains the least well defined and the most prone to identity crises. That's probably a reflection of a deeper tension - the tension between the myth of business IT and the somewhat more pedestrian reality.

While only tangentially related, the discourse reminds me of a commentary I wrote more than four years ago that I think is truer today than it was then: Long live the CIO, but kiss the IT department goodbye. In it, I wrote:

I predict that this decade will be marked by a giant shift in the information technology mindset. By 2010, the majority of IT will be outsourced and the companies that outsource their IT will have a skeleton staff of IT and project management professionals whose job it will be to keep their consultancies' efforts closely synched up to the business size and objectives. Depending on the size of the company, there may only be one or two of these people.

I still think this is true. 

Topic: CXO

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  • Relevent

    Does anyone really think Nicholas Carr is relevent anymore? I mean, he raised a devil's advocate, thought provoking issue a few years back and ever since he's tried to play the role of provocateur to the IT Management ranks.

    IT outsourcing and "in-sourcing" are cyclical in nature because technology is not yet delivered as a utility, but requires a certain skillset to implement and manage. Companies focus on their "core business" and move towards outsourcing their non-core functions. So they outsource payroll and hire an overpriced consulting firm to "manage" the IT. The companies go through a period where they realise that in an outsourced environment the cost of flexibility and change is quite high because they've moved from a Capex model to an Opex model - so the skin in the game isn't there's, they have a contract and their vendor won't let them go. The company winds out the contract, rebuilds its internal IT staff swearing to never get done again. The cycle repeats itself over and over again.

    This behaviour has been going on for nearly twenty years in some companies. Until the model really arrives where you can turn a dial and get some more Citrix, pay for more storage as you use it, have DR and a managed environment while maintaining some control over your application set administration, then this cycle will continue. Then things will change.
  • Oh please!!!

    I have been in the IT field nearly 35 years and have seen more management fads and pundit predictions come and go than I care to count.

    The commoditization of IT has been shown to be a complete failure but corporate management types continue to be in love with the idea of the "virtual company" which they keep on attempting to build. The result is higher costs, less control, less security, and more management headaches (See the article on my news-site 'Companies Begin To Understand The Costs of ?Extended? Supply Lines' at and you will begin to understand why outsourcing and "virtual companies" cannot evolve in the way management would like.)

    There will never come a time when IT is commoditized in the corporate environment unless companies decide they simply want to be clones of each other which defeats the concept of competitive advantage.

    IT personell are like "combat teams" that must be treated in that manner when it comes to compartmentalization, layering of responsibilities and disciplines but most companies treat their IT personnel like "cheap labor" creating an environment of chaos for them to work in and then wonder why the quality of their output is so low.

    Maybe corporate management should stop thinking about their businesses and start concerning themselves with what actually make them run...
  • listen up

    someone who is in the mix and knows what reality really is! when will management get it? maybe mever, just bonuses, at the cost of structure and dedication.