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Posts Tagged ‘Business Role in IT’

CIO, a Role for Two

Monday, October 11th, 2010

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?


What Should Business Managers Know About Information Systems?

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

In my work I interact with many business-centric and technology-centric individuals.  In most cases I am working with teams that include subject matter experts (SME), project managers, business analysts, architects, developers, IT infrastructure administrators, quality assurance personnel and users.  Each of these roles is important, but not sufficient, to delivering a successful project.  Beyond these roles, successful projects also rely on a host of best practices including strong business sponsorship, effective scoping, and good communication.  However, one area that can influence the effectiveness of a systems-based solution is the business management’s understanding of information systems (IS).

Many business leaders have a great depth of knowledge in terms of the operation of their business.  Using Michael Porter’s Value Chain to model a business, I have found that these leaders are thoroughly versed in the details of their primary activities.  However, when providing leadership for projects involving IS, they need more.  A solid business-centric understanding of IS as a key supporting activity for their business is essential.  The question is, “what constitutes a business-centric understanding of IS?”  Here are my thoughts on that topic.

Managers need to understand: 1) the types of information systems that are available; 2) the prerequisites for effectively leveraging information systems; 3) the necessary steps to install and operate information systems; and 4) the appropriate type of user for the various information systems.  At the core of each of these is the fact that a manager must assure that the information systems being leveraged or planned are supported by an information systems strategy that is tied to the business strategy.