The Carr-to-Rangaswami connection: Time to bleep the CIO?

The Carr-to-Rangaswami connection: Time to bleep the CIO?

Summary: There are probably a lot of CIOs that don't pay diddly squat in the way of attention to blogs. The question is whether there's a new meme bubbling up in the blogosphere that CIOs should be paying attention to: one that basically says the CIO as we know him/her deserves a pink slip.

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TOPICS: CXO
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There are probably a lot of CIOs that don't pay diddly squat in the way of attention to blogs. The question is whether there's a new meme bubbling up in the blogosphere that CIOs should be paying attention to: one that basically says the CIO as we know him/her deserves a pink slip. In a post entitled Twilight of the CIO, after pointing to a variety of other thought pieces on the waning popularity of the CIO Carr wrote:

We've entered the long twilight of the CIO position, a sign that information technology is finally maturing. Technical expertise is becoming centralized in the supply industry, freeing workers and managers to concentrate on the manipulation and sharing of information. It will be a slow transition - CIOs will continue to play critical roles in many firms for many years - but we're at last catching up with the vision expressed back in 1990 by the legendary CIO Max Hopper, who predicted that IT would come to “be thought of more like electricity or the telephone network than as a decisive source of organizational advantage. In this world, a company trumpeting the appointment of a new chief information officer will seem as anachronistic as a company today naming a new vice president for water and gas.

Ouch. That hurts (if you're a CIO). This is of course an ongoing theme with Carr -- one that is an easy derivation of his larger assertion that IT doesn't matter. Earlier this year, he asked if CIO's are dead weight. I riffed on that too. But if what's happening in practice is any indicator as to whether the CIO's days are numbered, then maybe what BT managing director JP Rangaswami has to say about his role at BT (where there are no CIOs) is the backup. In one of his interview questions of Rangaswami, Dan Farber paraphrased Rangaswami's own words as the preface to a question (on video) about the future of CIOs:

You warned "that the CIO role could disappear within the decade because all senior managers and board members will have to be knowledgable about IT and that's almost a given for the YouTube generation."

Rangaswami responded that, at BT, they had indeed done away with the CIO title and instead have several people as his "managing director" level where it's a job requirement to be well-versed in issues related to business, applications, networking, etc.

That said, I can't help but wonder if the decision to CIO, or not to CIO, isn't more a function of company size. For example, at a large company like BT with multi-variant interests, strategic cross-divisional IT by fiat can only slow a company down at a time when agility is critical. But for smaller companies, I still think what I wrote in a story headlined Long Live the CIO but kiss the IT department goodbye holds some water. At some companies, there's a person who is in charge of physical plant stuff like water and electricity. Those are indeed utilities and don't require a lot of baby sitting. But someone has to oversee them. In an IT sense, is it not possible then for a SME to have a CIO whose job it is to choreograph the implementation of several utility services? For example, maybe there's someone who sets the corporate office suite as Google Apps, and the saleforce automation solution as salesforce.com and a mass email solution as ExactTarget (perhaps bubbling it all up into the Google Apps-based portal (a centrally administered organizational version of iGoogle).

Perhaps making those selections, connecting them, and then deploying them to the staff doesn't take an IT department. But it might take a warm body. Who is that warm body? Is s/he a CIO? Or, is s/he essential the CIO in spirit, just with a different title?

Related The Register: Kill the CIO!

Topic: CXO

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  • Is there no difference between...

    ... gas, water and IT?
    I've no idea but a small cartoon:
    http://geekandpoke.typepad.com/geekandpoke/2007/10/vp-for-water-an.html

    Bye,
    Oliver
    oliver.widder@...