CIO, Where art Thou?

Vineet Chhatwal, chief operating officer for the Consulting Office asks why the regional establishment continues to ignore the benefits of good IT governance.

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CIO, Where art Thou? CHHATWAL: CIOs need to equip themselves with the relevant business skills if they want to be part of the core decision makers.
By  Vineet Chhatwal Published  December 27, 2009 Arabian Computer News Logo

I am certain that even the most casual readers of any news related website or a traditional newspaper would have heard the term Governance, its failures and so on.

Like elsewhere in the world, a ME based “governance think tank” recently organised a gathering of CIOs, risk managers and related experts to discuss various aspects of IT governance. Besides interesting trivia on the colossal failure of IT projects due to lack of proper governance, all that I heard was various forums and standards that exist on the subject and how an organisation can go about the process of implementing them.

There was a mini-poll of sorts among the “CIOs” present on what they have done or think of IT governance. The answers varied from a casual indifference to: “We have implemented CoBIT”. I was rather stunned to notice how their understanding was fundamentally flawed of what a CIO’s role is with regard to governance. And this time it was not the usual: “Business doesn’t understand IT”.

CIOs present in the room somehow saw IT governance as a “buzzword” that doesn’t belong to them but to the board of directors or other CxOs. As long as the internal and external auditors gave these CIOs a clean slip, most of them seemed very comfortable that they were doing all they could to ensure good governance in their domain.

Another thought that struck me – why is it that IT governance is sort of dealt with on its own as a discipline? At least, I have never heard of a conference on “Marketing Governance” so far – possibly due to the massive understanding gap that I was clearly witnessing in front of me. In simple terms and alarmingly, the true role of the CIO is still a black box for the CIOs themselves and understandably the boards of directors.

A major (although not the only purpose) of good IT governance is to connect IT with the business agenda. It’s a lot more than implementing operational controls and appointing an IT steering committee, not that these are not important. CIOs need to truly connect with the business agenda, right when it is being developed rather than playing a post facto catch-up.

They need to influence their business’s strategy and then cascade it into their various activities and project portfolios. They also need to link into the business’s strategy management system so that the performance of IT is reported through the same process and basis as any other prominent function. This will go a long way in not only strengthening the integration of  IT with business, but will also allow the board of directors and the CEO to see the value of IT in ways that come to them naturally.

However, in order to do this effectively CIOs need to equip themselves with the relevant business skills. I am not advocating a full scope business administration degree but some form of management/ business administration education will surely help in the migration from the “safe” world behind the locked doors of the server room to the “unfamiliar” rectangular table on the top floor of the office building.

This will also help them lose their diffidence with regard to truly claiming their rightful place next to the other CxOs. Since it is unlikely that the business will cross the line, it high time the IT did!

The views expressed are those of the author and not of The Consulting Office.

2880 days ago
Andrew Shaw

It is funny to see many organizations try to throw any and every thing under the sun into governance thesedays, but in reality it boils down mostly into soft processes (around 80%) such as training, policies, etc and 20% or even less to IT systems, we found a master company in USA called corpinfo who did an amazing job for a Government (large Taxation) organization, they have multiplepublications on the subject... dont get cought inbuying into a tool or software as Steve Jobs said... the most difficultpart of our Gov. was how to tame users!

2880 days ago
Wissam Adib

Vineet, I couldn't agree with you more. Note to CIOs: the word technology is nowhere in your job title. I understand the urge to be swept away by the latest and greatest in technology. But it's amazing how many information problems can be solved by a pen and paper. The key is to focus on delivering the organization's strategy.

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