As we went about doing research for this book, one theme constantly reoccurred: high-performing CIOs repeatedly told us you can’t tolerate excuses for failing to deliver on expectations and delivering value. You can’t complain about the pressures you are under or how your business partners do not understand IT or have a different view of the priorities. The best CIOs said that if you want to earn the same level of respect accorded other parts of the organization, you need to make sure you hold yourself, and your department, to the same standards that they are judged against.
Too often we have not done that, and as a result, the way IT is viewed has suffered, a point that Barbra Cooper, group vice president and CIO for Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., hammered home for us. "You know why the perception of IT has suffered for thirty years?" she asks rhetorically. "It’s almost as if we’ve swallowed a victim-mentality pill. You know, ‘Poor me. People don’t understand how hard my job is.’ That kind of thinking is simply not acceptable if you want to be taken seriously by the organization."
Proctor + Gamble’s CIO Filippo Passerini is equally blunt:
One thing that must be forbidden in our world is self commiseration, the idea that people don’t understand how good a job we are doing, or that they don’t appreciate us. That is absolutely nonsense. It would be as if P&G said the reason our sales are off is because customers don’t understand how much care we put into them. That wouldn’t be our customers’ fault. It would be ours, because in the end, it doesn’t matter how hard we try. It is how much we sell. In IT, the mind-set has got to be the same. It is up to us to shape our destiny; it is completely up to us.
Passerini, who was trained as an engineer, is arguing that CIOs must think like a business leader and not just a technologist, and he concedes that is not necessarily easy for someone who has come up through the IT ranks:
People with a technical background, like myself, tend to think in binary terms. Either-or. You can either have lower cost or better quality; speed or power. But if you are running a business unit, as I did, you are expected every year to deliver bigger sales volumes, increase your market share, and increase your profit. If you think about it, those three—profit, volume, and share—are in conflict. Because if you want to increase profit, you will increase price—but if you increase price, chances are, volume will drop. So in business, it is not either-or. It is "and, and, and."
We need to shift the thinking in IT. We have to stop saying we can reduce cost or increase speed. We need to stop telling our colleagues that if we increase speed, the quality will be affected. We need to make our thinking "and, and, and"—that we can reduce cost, increase speed, and improve quality. At P&G, we have been doing this. We have been training IT people to have this business mind-set. We have managers who act pretty much like a brand manager with the rest of the company. They are responsible for the creation of the service, running the service, innovating the service, providing the service, commercializing the service. So the skills that are required are the ones of businesspeople.