The single most important question CIOs need to answer

I have a theory.

OK, I have many theories but today’s theory has to do with a medical mystery.

I believe there is a very small blood vessel that runs through the ring finger of every male’s left hand. This is a critical vessel, since it supplies blood to the part of the brain that allows a male to discern whether or not the clothing he is wearing actually matches.

Once you constrain this blood vessel by installing a wedding band, the male’s ability to dress himself completely vanishes, creating the situation where he is confronted on the way out the door with the question… “You’re not going out like that, are you???”

This is what is known as a rhetorical question. There is only one right answer, which is determined by the asker of the question, not the recipient. The wrong answer means you are doomed.

Right now, all the married men are nodding in familiar recollection.

But I’m not here to discuss how you dress.

If you are an IT leader, there is a much more important question you need to answer. It’s the very difference between your future as a strategic contributor with a seat at the executive table, or the head of an underfunded department trying to provide IT services at the lowest possible cost.

The question is this. “You aren’t going to keep doing IT the way you’ve always done… are you???”

This is an exciting time to be leading IT. But the things that worked a few short years ago aren’t sustainable. Back then, we had a controlled environment, we controlled technology from source to endpoint. We could dictate the rules (which were usually in our favour) and set the boundaries.

But IT is not about control. It’s about actually delivering the environment that Peter Drucker envisioned decades ago when he said “Work is easy. Just get the right information to the right people at the right time.”

Add in the complexity of the convergence of cloud computing, BYOD, data analytics, demands for gluing data from several dissimilar systems into a single interface, security concerns, new compliance issues, and a host of other things, and you begin to wonder why anyone would want to lead an IT organization today.

Because it can be a great deal of fun… and very rewarding.

As a long time CIO (and previously running a consulting firm), I’ve led transition and change at all sizes and types of organizations, from telecommunications, to government agencies, to utilities, to most recently the change resistant environment of education. I’ve got the scars and callouses to prove it.

I’m firmly convinced that IT can be the influencer of the change needed to transform organizations to achieve new strategic growth and market differentiation. If we do that, we become heroes.

By the way, the answer to both questions is “No! Of course not! What was I thinking?”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Kevin Pashuk
Kevin Pashuk
Kevin Pashuk blogs regularly about his life as a Chief Information Officer in the educational sector. His writings cover educational technology, IT leadership, and whatever else might be on his mind. Some people even agree with him.

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