CIOs must put business needs first: Panel

IT processes should be centralized because this rule allows companies to control costs while still heeding suggestions from staff, executives said at a recent seminar on the evolving role of the CIO.

Although “”it sounds somewhat draconian,”” admitted Dietmar Reiner, CIO of Ontario Power Generation

Inc., this model, which permits only the CIO to establish IT policies and standards, works well at his company.

Under a decentralized model, someone else within the company comes up with a technical solution to a problem and asks the IT department to implement it, Reiner explained.

“”But many times you’ve actually missed the mark because the business solution that was defined didn’t fix the problem,”” he said. “”IT can run away very quickly if there isn’t a centralized control.””

Produced by Compass Management Consultants and the IT Business Group, owned by Transcontinental Media, the EDGE breakfast seminar also examined the CIO’s role in managing complexity, notably the alignment of infrastructure and infostructure.

On one side, IT infrastructure is being commoditized and manipulated by marketing issues; on the other, a company’s infostructure, or information capital, may be used in decision-making based on inaccurate data or meeting regulations under PIPEDA or Sarbanes-Oxley, said Robert Garigue, vice-president and chief information security officer of the BMO Financial Group.

In other organizations, issues bearing down on CIOs include the expansion of their roles into the broader business, Reiner added. “”The expectation is the CIO has a good understanding of core business functions . . . (and) technology is the vehicle used.””

At Toromont Industries Ltd., a construction equipment and power systems firm, CIO Mike Cuddy looks for development staff who “”get a charge out of solving business problems. We hire people who love getting pats from the marketing guy”” who’s happy with the CRM system.

Although a demand for IT staff with deep technological knowledge still exists, Reiner said, the need for communications skills and “”the ability to manage issues without being directed every step of the way”” is increasing.

Neil Barton, director of global consulting services at Compass Management Consultants, said CIOs should also know there are drawbacks to the popular strategy of getting products on the cheap.

Barton said even if companies cut costs by eight per cent this year, next year they’ll be under pressure to cut more, until the only way to be successful is to keep cutting. Ultimately, it’s a losing game because it’s not the best way for IT to help a company.

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