What CIOs can learn from Odysseus

Toronto – Pressure from customers and shareholders is forcing chief information officers to become more business oriented even as they continue to face complex management and technical challenges, according to research firm Gartner.

“Business performance is the one metric, above all others, by which CIOs are measured today,” Chris Goodhue, vice-president and director of Gartner’s Americas executive programs team told an audience here Friday. “Customers have come to expect falling prices, shareholders expect rising returns, or at least stable returns.”

Goodhue was delivering the Odyssey 2001 address as part of Gartner’s annual ITxpo. In it, he compared the path today’s CIOs must walk to Homer’s Odyssey, saying CIOs have to be master negotiators and communicators and “pull out the stops” like Homer’s Odysseus character.

“If you’re a CIO today, you have to be a master of persuasion and you have to please the gods,” Goodhue said. “All the great work CIOs have done to get organization aligned is starting to pay off. The challenge now is to deliver.”

Goodhue said CIOs should pay special attention to, extending multiple antenna to the business, developing new capabilities, proactively responding to the economic cycle and to spending their budgets wisely and to be seen doing so.

Judging by the results of a survey of 1,500 CIOs Goodhue presented, CIOs have a firm grasp on the importance of those business imperatives.

“Cost pressures” topped the list of business trends cited by the surveyed CIOs, while strategizing for an information systems/business linkage was the number one management trend and internal e-business infrastructure was noted as the most pressing IT trend.

Other business trends noted by the surveyed CIOs, based all over the world, included growing security and privacy concerns, a single vision of customers and customer relationship and a shortage of skilled people and resources.

Attracting and retaining quality people was also cited as the second most prevalent management trend cited by the CIOs surveyed.

“All IS professionals need to have a higher level of business savvy than their predecessors,” Goodhue said. “The talent wars continue to wage on despite all the pink slips.”

Goodhue said one of the more interesting facts revealed by Gartner’s research is that the more CIOs do to increase employees’ marketability, the more apt they are to stay with the company. Throwing more money at employees, Goodhue said, will only result in employees putting off their departures.

Other key management trends include demonstrating the business value of IS and program and project management.

However, the CIOs noted that program and project management will become a less prevalent issue over the next three years, while matters like e-process management and management of knowledge and intellectual capital take on more prominent roles.

XML implementation, data mining and mobile remote access from personal digital assistants and similar devices will become the hot IT concerns over the next three years, the CIOs said.

“These things often come in below the budgeting radar and pose a certain security risk,” Goodhue said, noting that this is just one CIO concern among many, including being a mentor and being increasingly budget conscious.

“CIOs live in an increasingly complex world with multiple realities,” he said.

Gartner’s first Canadian Symposium/ITxpo wrapped up Friday.

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