Why it's time for the two-speed CIO

You can think of its a two modes or two hats but in either case, according to the analysts at Gartner, the successful CIO is the one who can operate at two speeds.

CIOs need to cosy up to the CFO to make sure that the thoughts of the IT department are incorporated at an earlier stage in strategic planning and budgeting processes.

According to the analyst group Gartner, decisions are taken by senior management on issues that directly impact on IT, without IT being included in that process; it is an issue that IT returns to again and again while senior management in the business continue to struggle with it.

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As Cassio Dreyfuss, research vice president at Gartner puts it: "In the past, the use of IT to support the business came almost as an afterthought, long after the business strategy and strategic initiatives [had] been designed and sanctioned by top management."

Over time, IT has gone from being a support tool to being a business enabling creation tool and so it makes more sense to talk about IT-related expenditures in each and every business initiative, he said.

The key point, Dreyfuss said, is that the "CIO is challenged to adopt a higher profile and actively engage in opportunities to influence IT decisions".

Gartner strongly supports the creation of a "bimodal" IT organisation, Dreyfuss said. One, the "enterprise-strength IT," is responsible for delivering IT services while the other, the "opportunistic IT," is ready to take advantage of new business opportunities.

"These characteristics legitimise CIOs and their teams as advisors to all budgets in all functions within the enterprise," said Michael Smith, vice president at Gartner.

In addition, IT leaders must advise business leaders on, "how to secure, integrate and manage the quality of the information that fuels digital business".

All of this adds another layer of complexity to what the CIO has to do; but then again if you told the average CIO they had to wear two hats to do their job, most would say: "Only two? I wear at least five or more."

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