Smaller but more powerful

Over the last decade or so, we have seen an incredible increase in the responsibilities given to and scope of activities of the CIO, from keeper of the IT infrastructure, to contributor to business strategy and member of the senior executive team.

Counter to prevailing wisdom, one of our regular contributors, notes that the role of the CIO may be shrinking again.

Think about it. “The role of the CIO shrinks when other executives engage alternative IT delivery models,” writes Yogi Schulz in this month’s Soapbox column. (See p. 24). Some companies are outsourcing major pieces of their sales and marketing operations to large vendors, and the question then becomes, do CIOs really need to be involved in any of these activities?

Now, juxtapose this thought with Nicholas Carr’s hypothesis that IT is no longer a source of competitive advantage (See Q&A, p. 24-25). Can you blame your CIO for wanting to do a bit of soul-searching?

But before CEOs run off to their HR departments looking to streamline their executive payroll, consider this.

Could it be that CIOs are merely retreating, fine-tuning and re-focussing, and gearing up for the next big technological push?

Job security seems assured. The three CEOs in our roundtable that begins on p. 8 say in no uncertain terms that each of their CIOs is an not only an essential part of their executive team, but key to future business planning.

After discussing all this, Yogi and I reached a further conclusion that we see enormous running room for the further development of IT.

Many organizations use only a fraction of a software package’s functionality that they’ve licensed, there’s lots of work to be done both in the areas of integration and ease-of-use. Superior execution in any of these areas offers CIOs all kinds of areas for growth.

For the future, developments in convergence, collaboration, content management and nanotechnology will also create new opportunities for competitive advantage.

If there is one lesson that can be learned from this industry is that you can shrink and become more powerful at the same time. The computer chip is the perfect example. CIOs, may want to keep this in mind.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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