CIO council tackles business issues to weather storm

Under increasing pressure to help tighten corporate budgets, Global 2000 IT executives are set to kick off a new group called the Technology Leadership Council, starting in the United States with the aim of going international, to grapple with business alignment and leadership issues, and examine ways to deal with the current economic crisis.

The executive peer-discussion forum is being organized by the Hunter Management Group LLC (HMG), an IT business strategy consultancy, and is aimed at corporate CIOs and other high-level IT executives who deal with vendor selection, leadership practices, ROI (return on investment) analysis, and technology outsourcing. Of special importance in the current budget season are issues relating to IT departments’ strategic alignment with business, and connecting the technology and business sides of corporations, according to Hunter Muller, CEO of HMG, based in Westport, Connecticut.

Gartner Inc. CIO Bart Stanco, for example, plans to present a case study at the group’s inaugural meeting Oct. 30 on how the IT research and consulting group has dealt with its own alignment issues.

“I would be speaking about alignment and also some of the challenges in the current environment, i.e., how to reduce cost to free up budget to do new projects,” said Stanco, based at Gartner headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut. “The big challenge for IT departments is that they are under budget constraints, while they still must meet business expectations to maintain current levels of service,” Stanco said. “One of the things you can do is examine and drive down costs for telecommunications and infrastructure … and use some of those savings for development projects.”

In order to help each other grapple with budget, vendor and leadership problems, members will present case studies of problems and the solutions applied to them, according to Muller.

“Practitioners like to hear from other practitioners,” said Muller. “They’ve talked about closing the gap between business and IT before, but there are still barriers everywhere.”

For example, only about 20 per cent of CIOs in the top 2000 multinational corporations report directly to the CEO, Muller notes.

IT executives are currently putting together budgets for the next year, and the current economic climate, which has dampened customer demand and slowed revenue growth for many multinational companies, is making the process more difficult.

“Today we’re working off budgets that were created last year – the current year is not being scrutinized but next year it’s going to be scrutinized to no end.”

The goal of the Leadership Council is to come up with solutions to the most pressing issues IT executives have regarding leadership practices, human capital and organizational development. Given that council members will predominantly come from Global 2000 companies, cross-cultural management issues will be tackled. Muller also envisions launching a forum for department-level IT managers.

Meeting will typically consist of a case study presentation, followed by a question and answer session and panel discussions on various IT leadership and business topics, Muller said. The members are putting together a rolling agenda focusing on issues including:

– Strategies to become a best-practices, high-performing global IT organization

– Enhancing CIO-“CXX” executive relationships

– Implementing global strategic alignment and planning with the business

– Lowering costs by 10 per cent to 15 per cent in the telecommunication, hardware and software areas

– Vendor negotiations, outsourcing assessment

– Mechanisms to ensure IT spend prioritization, governance and ROI

– Leadership performance

As the Internet increasingly makes IT the central nervous system of global corporations, IT executives are under increasing pressure to understand business and develop the types of communications skills traditionally expected from top corporate executives, Gartner CIO Stanco notes.

“We need a set of objectives for IT to lead and partner with the business, but I don’t think many CIOs have this model yet,” Muller said. In its own consulting practice, HMG has put together a seven-component framework against which it measures performance of corporate IT departments. The components of the “HMG Unleashing the Power of IT” framework include measuring IT organizations’ execution against global IT vision; mission statement; planning with the business; performance management of IT staff; internal IT planning; global management practices; and IT leadership skills.

The first meeting of the Technology Leadership Council is set for Oct. 30 at the Hyatt Hotel in Greenwich, Conn. For more information, or to participate, contact the Hunter Management Group LLC in Westport, Conn., at