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.