Your CEO still doesn’t get IT

More than two-thirds of CIOs say that their CEOs view IT as a cost of doing business — and not, unfortunately, as a business enabler. That’s according to a survey of more than 700 CIOs by Meta Group Inc. Findings from CIO’s “State of the CIO 2003” survey showed similar numbers: A whopping 84 per cent of 539 respondents said IT was budgeted as a cost centre, while only 16 per cent said IT was budgeted as an investment centre that creates new business capabilities.

While you know that IT has strategic value, chances are your CEO doesn’t, and it’s up to you to show him. According to Jonathan Poe, senior vice-president at Meta Group, CIOs typically aren’t proactive in communicating and demonstrating IT’s value to business executives. Those who are believe that solving alignment problems will put IT on the CEO’s radar.

Best practices

Strengthen and nurture the important relationships. Street-smart CIOs manage executive relationships in a high-touch manner (lots of face time) that simultaneously increases business perception and CIO credibility. “A strategic relationship with the CEO requires a lot of reinforcement,” says Meta Group’s Jonathan Poe. “Relationships taken for granted are typically short-lived.”

Mediate via portfolio management

Portfolio management (the practice of administering IT projects and assets as an investment portfolio with expected payback returns) can help overcome the gulf between business and IT executives. IT portfolios have transparent and holistic views of the organization, which help businesses understand more fully the collaboration needed to balance and satisfy enterprise and line-of-business requirements.

Make value an everyday execution

Most CIOs understand that they need to communicate IT value. Before communication, however, they must create and demonstrate IT value, both strategic (such as time-to-market) and tactical (system availability). Mold a staff to reflect your values and leadership style. “Too many CIOs make do with an inherited staff that was built for someone else (who has left),” says Poe. Skilled CIOs assemble staff and deputies who both enhance their strengths and overcome their shortcomings. By possessing a staff that shares a vision, mission and principles, an IT organization will more consistently reflect the thoughts, words and deeds of its leader — the CIO. “Not having nearly identical communication and action is what causes businesses to question CIO authenticity, integrity and credibility,” says Poe.

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