Actors often enjoy the challenge of a role that requires two completely different personas to be presented. Jekyll and Hyde, Peter Pan’s Captain Hook and Mr. Darling as well as The Prince and the Pauper all give an actor the chance to play two different people within the same role. In the case of CIOs, they are cast in a role that has a similar theme, requiring two very different mindsets.
For the CIO, this duality is described in a variety of ways. Sometimes the CIO’s job requirements are discussed as internally and externally focused. In other cases people separate the responsibilities into infrastructure and business.
Regardless of how the aspects are expressed, there is an understanding that the CIO provides leadership in two different realms. One realm is focused on keeping equipment operating, minimizing maintenance costs, achieving SLAs and allowing the business to derive value from IT investments. The other realm focuses on business strategy and seeks to derive new functionality in support of improved productivity, customer service, profitability and other corporate measures.
By analogy, the first realm keeps the power flowing while the second creates new devices to plug in and do work.
One could argue that a rethinking of corporate structure might help simplify this situation. After all, we don’t charge the CFO with maintaining the infrastructure around financial systems, including file cabinets, door locks and computer hardware. Why should a person charged with exploiting computers for the benefit of the corporation also be charged with the maintenance of the computer hardware and software? Couldn’t the latter responsibility be provided by an operations group, similar to the handling of most utilities?