20 Mar Fire your CIO? If he's not implementing strategy, show him the door
IT spending in the healthcare industry is soaring, as are demands for the CIO’s attention: electronic health records, patient privacy, computerized physician order entry, and the like, combined with the standard fare of maintaining IT operations faced by CIOs in other industries.
The C-suite also is going through a major transition. Increasingly, what separates the “men from the boys” is that ability to execute corporate strategy, rather than maintaining ongoing operations. Despite the swelling ranks of people with a “C” in their title, the inner circle of the CEO continues to shrink. If the CIO is absent from that inner circle, he or she should be shown the door.
The growing cadre of MBAs and people with the ability to manage has made it easier to find resources that can execute a series of tasks, and is making the old-style “operational CIO” obsolete. If your technology organization is merely a cost to be controlled, and the current CIO more concerned with the nuances of XML, AJAX, and SOAP than with the latest competitive threats and opportunities, dismiss him or her, hire some managers, tell them which boxes they need to keep running, and start cutting your technological fat.
The “new CIO” needs to be both an executor and a strategist. He or she should understand business processes first, and the latest technologies second. By working with the CEO and other key executives, this CIO should quickly ascertain the key strategic priorities that the organization must tackle. The “new CIO” will then translate these strategic imperatives into a technology plan that rigorously focuses on return on investment, and on streamlining the business rather than implementing a particular system.
As the new CIO proves himself or herself, he or she will be seen as someone who can deliver quantifiable monetary value to the organization, rather than yet another cost center that needs to be managed and mitigated.
If you find your CEO’s eyes glazing over whenever you meet, or are constantly asked why you cannot trim your budget by a few percentage points, you might be one of the soon-to-be-extinct generation of operational CIOs. Take heart that all hope is not lost, and you can parlay your knowledge of the business and its existing IT infrastructure into a true leadership role.
Talk to your CEO about his or her biggest challenges, and where they see the business going. CEOs love to talk strategy, and with a little prodding, they will fill your head with their strategic vision. Examine your current initiatives and determine which dovetail with that vision, and transition resources and attention to those projects, outsourcing or delegating ongoing operational tasks.
Present your IT organization to other executives as a strategic partner, asking how IT can meet their objectives and mitigate their concerns, rather than suggesting some new “hot tech.” Transform your IT organization from a shared service that provides developers and engineers to a group of business experts with tech savvy, and at all times speak the language of business process rather than talking tech.
With concerted effort, you will finally sit at the table with the CEO, a trusted advisor and executor rather than a lurking cost on the periphery of the C-suite, biding your time until the axe falls.
Previous article by Patrick Gray
• Patrick Gray: Five steps to buying the right package software
• CIOs looking to hire more IT workers in second quarter
• Fusion 2007: Making the business case for technology
• Fusion 2007: CEOs say bar is raised for CIOs
• Mike Klein: Are your business and technology goals aligned?
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC.
WTN accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.