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CIO Slogs, Organization Sleeps: Are We Serious?
We are all aware of the challenges faced by a CIO in his work place. Skills demanded of him are many. He is expected to have a good knowledge of business, he has to be good at systems analysis, understanding new technologies, selling and networking within the organization, negotiating with vendors, project management, change management, team handling etc.
He also slogs, working at unearthly hours either to complete a crucial project on time or to attend to emergencies relating to disruption of system. Yet, he is often blamed for shortcomings and sometimes considered lesser than other functional heads.
The CIO may have to be blamed on some occasions, but not so in many other cases. He works within the constraints of the organizational functioning and is subject to the work culture practiced in the organization.
There are quite a few companies that are forward looking and have an enlightened group of management personnel. It is truer of specific sectors like Telecom, Banking & Financial companies, Airlines, Railways, Travel or other such services sector organizations where the businesses are primarily IT driven. Companies in other sectors, however, may or may not be endowed with these benefits. This is where the poor CIO is at his wits end.
All organizations are not alike; some are more informed than the others. I will, however, list down some adverse factors that affect many a CIO from carrying on their good tasks. Let me describe a few of them:
1. Ignorance: Many organizations neither specify their expectations from the CIO nor do they have any formal demands on him with respect to deliveries. The CIO has to fend for himself. In many cases, the CIO defines his own role and charts a path for himself. He goes on to demonstrate his usefulness and tries to increase his acceptability. He may succeed in some cases but if he is not senior enough, he may have a big challenge on his hands.
2. Indifference: In many organizations, IT is not given a priority and budgets are not adequately allocated. IT is considered a cost center and in times of resource crunch, IT budget is usually the first to be blocked. The CIO sure can fight his way through and make IT count, but by that time, a half of his work life would have been consumed.
3. Position / Reporting: For historical reasons, many companies consider IT a sub-function and the CIO reports to the CFO. That reduces his authority and independence. Struggle to whatever level he may, he still cannot break free and make his mark.
4. Management Support but no Participation: Managements often support only by words but do no more than just sanctioning budgets and monitoring spends. How many times have they stepped out to meet the IT team or the users to review projects and send a message that IT is important? Such a management thinks it has played its part and it is the CIO who is responsible for everything else.
5. No Acknowledgement: If any organization is serious about IT, it would acknowledge and felicitate the CIO for playing his role in the success of an important project. That sure would encourage the CIO to do better. However, the CIO is remembered only when there is a server breakdown, network disruption, mail failure and the like but forgotten soon thereafter.
In my long career and stint with various companies, I have encountered both good and bad organizations, but lesser number of good ones. During conversations, many CIOs and IT vendors have the same story to tell. We may have better times in the years ahead as young people ascend the throne and give a newer and meaningful thrust to IT.