Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Dilution of the CIO and CTO Title—part 2

Having multiple CIOs in the same company undermines the position. Of course there are exceptions but for most companies this is my assertion.

Think about the common challenges CIOs lament. How to align IT with the business? How to be seen as part of the business strategy and less as the operator of the data center and network? How to be seen/respected as an equal on the executive team? These are issues of an organization and leadership that has not found its way to being part of the business; important to the business; even essential to the business but not part of the business. Why are CIOs not seen as strategic business partners while CFOs generally are?

There are multiple CFOs in large organizations too. Believe it or not, some CFO’s struggle with how to become a strategic business partner and not just an accounting specialist. But my observation is that successful CFOs are key strategic business partners while most CIOs are not. Most CIOs know that they must have the support of the CFO for any major IT initiative. I can’t recount a single time that a CFO felt it necessary to “win over” the CIO. It works having layers of CFOs in large corporations.

Layers of CFOs are acceptable and workable while the same structure of CIOs is not because the role of the CFO is well understood and respected. In many large corporations the reporting relationship of the CFOs parallels that of the business leader with the solid line relationship to the corporate CFO and a dotted line to the business leader. Further, the financial processes and rules in companies are set and must be followed. I don’t say those rules and processes are streamlined, fair, or sensible but everyone knows how the annual budget process works, who does the work of financing the operation, and who reports the results. No department ever says, “We don’t like our budget, we are going to ignore Finance and go get some money somewhere else.”

The role and authority of the CIO beyond running the IT department is not well understood and accepted and neither are the processes for interacting with the business. In a big company how many ways do projects get assigned resources? Subverting the IT department is allowed in most companies in one way or another and is great sport in some.

My point?

Having multiple CIOs undermines the goal of the CIO as a peer member of the strategic business team. Until the highest level IT executive has similar authority, respect and impact to that of the CFO throughout the corporation there should be only one CIO. CEOs who want a CIO to function at this level should make the organizational and title changes and drive the CIO to be that person. Or get someone else.

As for all the other CIOs: make them all the proper level of vice president but for now most companies should only have one CIO, if any.