CIOs Should Play Hardball
By Dave Courbanou
The role of the CIO is becoming increasingly more complex, requiring CIOs to develop interpersonal skills, inter-executive skills and technological skills — and it’s because the role of IT has never been more important in the business world. That’s also why it’s never been more important for CIOs to press the issue — play hardball, that is. Because if CIO’s don’t push for innovation or change, nobody will.
An insightful guest blog by Art Langer at the Wall Street Journal suggests that CIOs aren’t taking enough risks to push the envelope. According to Langer, “CIOs can change the world,” he writes. “Think about it: the technology is out there. The challenge is converting it into a sound business plan—and having the guts to take risks!”
Langer laments that we’ve built a generation of people who play it safe and are less willing to take risks. As a result, when the latest and greatest technology presents itself, people default to being wary instead of taking action. According to Langer, the industry zeitgeist needs to be centered around “large, established companies [that] start investing in innovation like they did in the 1950s and 1960s—investments that improved both the social and economic world.”
That doesn’t mean CIOs need to put the world on their shoulders just yet, but it’s worth considering the large business outcomes that could be achieved by moving full-speed ahead with the new tech today, instead of a cautious adopt-and-grow approach. More importantly, that slow adopt-and-grow approach may not be an option in a few years time.
The latest Gartner predictions note that if CIOs don’t do push for it, the users will. “User demand will increase for new and updated IT services … [and] technically savvy and younger users [will demand] more productivity applications on their mobile devices to expand desktop front-end capabilities and performance.” Gartner also makes similar predictions about big data technology, public cloud solutions and social networking tools. It may not be the users pushing for it, but it may be industry and competitive influence. In other words, don’t wait for push to come to shove.
The CIO has the power to make sure things don’t reach that critical mass, and in some ways, this is yet another new job description for the CIO: implementing new technologies in a timely manner. But the key to true business success isn’t just a strategic roadmap, it’s bringing that new technology to a business in a way that inspires and innovation, even if it’s innovation only on an internal level. Innovations that reshape long-standing business practices have the potential to create change just as much as forward-facing changes do in a product or service.
Pushing risk-taking into the corporate culture will require a CIO to call upon all interpersonal executive skills, and this on is a risk onto itself. But insisting on budgetary shifts for new investments — and delivering on the promise of those hard-won concessions — will likely be how the CIO earns a paycheck in the modern day. The CIOs that maintain the status quo or fails to deliver on promises won’t likely be CIO material for long.
In short, CIOs should be proactive. The road ahead is not forgiving for those playing catch-up, and more importantly, the next decade of computing will require businesses to be — at the very least — on or ahead of the curve.