CIOs facing tough task of marrying IT to business

Chief Information Officers (CIOs) are increasingly being tasked to tie together business processes and information technology, rather than merely selecting and managing IT systems, according to a recently released survey from consulting firm Deloitte.

The report, titled CIO 2.0: The Changing Role of the Chief Information Officer, found designing business processes that meet regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley in the U.S. and Bill 198 in Canada has risen to the top of the list of challenges facing CIOs.

Proving the value of IT investments is yet another challenge.

In the past, IT was treated as a sacred cow, notes Jean-Claude Aube, a principal with Deloitte. Executives didn’t ask IT to justify expenses, unlike other business divisions.

“But that doesn’t cut it any more,” said Aube. “The business community is much more informed and CIOs have to become better business people and improve their overall capital justification abilities.”

According to Aube, in the mid- to late-90s, CIOs had to be technically savvy to keep up with the latest IT improvements. But now that technology is viewed as more of a commodity than a competitive edge, CIOs need skillsets centred around information management and business acumen, he added.

Also on the challenge list for CIOs is the issue of outsourcing. Again, said Aube, CIOs have to ensure their own organizations have solid business processes in place, so they can deal effectively with outsourcers.

For example, he said, most offshore programming shops have CMMI Level 5 certification. CMMI is a business process standard and Level 5 indicates the highest level of business process competency.

“If you want to deal with a Level 5, you really have to be a level-something yourself,” he said. “If you have not achieved a level of process formalism, outsourcing can be a nightmare. You wind up sending fuzzy requests to your outsourcer and not getting back what you wanted.”

Other risks and challenges cited in the report include: security, business integration and growing talent. The CIO report is based on surveys of Deloitte’s global CIO advisors conducted last year.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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