When you think about it, it’s actually remarkable that when organizations like Pew Research release survey results ranking perceptions of occupations, CIOs aren’t on the list (unless they’re included under “business executives,” which are ranked right down there with journalists on their most recent tally).
But do you have any idea how you’re referred to behind your back in your company? The terms are unlikely to be positive: geeks, techies, nerds, and the new one making the rounds, “abominable no-men.”
William Murphy, CTO of the investment firm Blackstone Group, described the current reputation of CIOs and IT at Interop a couple of weeks ago (as noted in InformationWeek) as “at best adequate – a cost center and a back-office necessity at many companies.” More often, Murphy continued, “We’re categorized as people who say ‘No’ first and ask questions later.” Ouch.
Personally, I’m an idealist. My vision of a CIO is someone who keeps his or her finger on the pulse of technology, and brings it to the business as a cheerleader saying, “hey, here’s this new thing that’s going to make your life easier and our business better.”
The reality may be that CIOs have been too overwhelmed to do that. Nonetheless, it looks like some of them are figuring out how to make that transition, as evidenced by a few recent stories.
In CIOs Want to Be Allies, Not Adversaries, With Business Users, my former colleague Tom Kaneshige at CIO notes that, in taking this attitude, CIOs are newly motivated to cut down on shadow IT. But they should be allies, because, as the story notes, “CIOs are the ambassadors of new technology, … and can usher products and services throughout the enterprise.”
A recent Ponemon Institute study on Data Center Outages actually quantifies how IT lives and dies by its work. As Tony Kontzer reports in Network Computing, “84% of data center professionals say they’d rather walk barefoot over hot coals than have their data centers go down for any length of time.” Man, that’s dedication.
How do you make this transition? One IT executive recommends making an assiduous effort to focus less on technology and more on the business. In a Silicon Republic interview, Francis O’Haire, of IT distributor DataSolutions, said, “One of the biggest challenges was maybe to get to the point where I wasn’t seen as a guy who could whip out a screwdriver and install something anymore. For me, anyway, it was a slow process and probably accelerated by me stopping reading the installation manuals, deferring to the engineers … I had to turn myself away from those books, stop knowing this stuff so I could free up my time and my mind to see the bigger picture.”
And it looks like some CIOs down under are already becoming more successful at the transition from outsiders to insiders. According to a VMware-sponsored survey conducted by Forrester Consulting earlier this year and reported in CIO Australia, “38 per cent of respondents said the credibility and influence of the CIO is increasing while 67 per cent viewed IT as a source of business value or catalyst for change.”