CIO responsibilities expand beyond IT

Increasing competition and the ensuing drive to cut costs and increase efficiency has turned the spotlight on the role of the CIO. The role of the CIO continues to morph beyond the scope of the traditional IT remit, according to Meta Group. The research firm’s latest study reveals that only 58% of CIOs believe their scope of responsibility is that of a “traditional CIO”.

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By  Alicia Buller Published  November 30, 2004

|~||~||~|The role of the CIO continues to morph beyond the scope of the traditional IT remit, according to Meta Group. The research firm’s latest study reveals that only 58% of CIOs believe their scope of responsibility is that of a “traditional CIO”.

This is the lowest margin in the two years that Meta Group has conducted the survey, and more than 40% of CIOs indicated that their job scope includes other business functions, from facilities management to human resources (HR). 29% specifically indicated their jobs included responsibility for leading or supporting business transformation.

The CIO position was created when businesses began to realise the strategic value of IT. Since then, CIOs have begun to enter the boardroom, gaining influence and responsibility. Zaki Sabbagh is CIO of Saudi Arabia’s Zamil Industrial Investment Company, where he manages 36 staff serving ten company departments.

“My role has changed dramatically in the last three and a half years. This is mainly because IT has become more intrinsically linked to the business. There’s much more responsibility now because, as a CIO, I’m involved in the business planning,” he says.

According to a recent survey by CIO magazine, the single most pivotal skill for success as a CIO is the ability to communicate effectively. Of the 500 global CIOs who participated in the poll, 70% picked communication as one of their three most important skills, 58% chose understanding the business process and operations, and 46% put strategic thinking and planning in the top three.

Sabbagh agrees wholeheartedly. “The essential [CIO] skills now include being able to lead the strategy of the IT architectecture by having a good knowledge of IT options and outcomes, not necessarily the technical knowledge. What’s more important is that the CIO needs to be more aware of the nature of business and needs to be a pioneer of IT and business best practice and processes from around the world,” he says.

The CIO role — even as little as two years ago — was comparable with that of an IT manager — simply managing the provision of IT to support limited functions. However, increasing competition and the ensuing drive to cut costs and increase efficiency has turned the spotlight onto IT and, thus, the role of the CIO. At a basic level, it is still the CIO’s responsibility to manage the IT department but this is no longer the clear task that it once was.

Information technology is now the foundation of most businesses, and needs to be treated as such. More than ever, CIOs need to maintain business continuity and security through business and IT processes, while recruiting skilled staff. If they don’t, the business will lose considerable revenue.

“Given the IT organisation’s end-to-end view of business processes, it is no surprise that CIOs are gaining responsibility for supporting business transformation,” says CD Hobbs, senior vice president of executive directions at Meta Group “Effective business transformation depends on an executive’s ability to impact work routines by changing the business processes that define how work is done. The CIO has unique knowledge and insight valuable for business process management, re-engineering and reconfiguration — all with the potential to alter culture in a positive manner while responding to market imperatives.”

The survey also indicates significant improvement of the perception of IT as a tool for both business management and business transformation. For instance, 65% of survey respondents agreed that the measures of IT’s business value have changed over the past several years, reflecting changes in governance and advanced techniques for analysing and measuring the benefit of IT investments.

Fiscal pressure is the major contributor to the changed perception (60%), while an equal number of respondents cite other drivers, particularly an improved perception of the overall effectiveness of the IT organisation (60%) and increased influence of compliance and risk management (30%).

“The IT department is now results orientated rather than effort orientated. Our results now directly affect the company’s results. IT is going through more changes than ever. We want to become services based and not support based — beginning with the setting of SLAs (service level agreements) within the company, followed by serving outside customers and turning the IT department into a profit-maker,” says Sabbagh.

Sabbagh has clearly taken heed of what today’s CEOs are looking for in their CIOs — business transformers. “Business executives, including CEOs, are recognising and expect access to the transformational potential of IT,” says Hobbs. “CIOs must master and be prepared to deliver the transformational capability of the IT organisation across the enterprise to sustain the improved credibility,” he adds. ||**||

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