Published: 09 Jun 2008
| By saying "Yes," IT can actually become nimble, flexible, dynamic and, perhaps more importantly, strategic.
This list, my friends, shall provide me with column material for weeks to come. Let's start at the top with people leadership. It's the No. 1 priority, but what does this mean? Is it your CIO's top goal to become a better leader to you and your IT pals? While that would certainly qualify as a noble cause, I'm fairly certain that's not what these CIOs had in mind. Instead, I think it means they've finally figured out that they need to learn how to manage the folks on the business side of the table, the people causing them (and you) the most problems.
Right or wrong, the CIO is the chief of the IT world. They used to be techies, and then became accountants and finally a sort of hybrid finance person. CIOs are often in no man's land, ostracized by the very businesses they serve because negative IT stereotypes persist even while there are increasing demands on IT to serve as the gateway to business progress. CIOs are often alien to their own IT people, struggling to translate business requests and bring IT personnel the resources and respect they need to bring about real change. The CIO gets it from both sides, personifying the "gap" between IT and business.
The appearance of "business alignment" on the list shows just what a struggle it is. If IT isn't aligned with the business, what should it be aligned with? The stars?
When it comes to big companies, big org charts allow CIOs lots of places to hide. But CIOs at midmarket companies have it harder than their associates at large organizations because there aren't thousands of people beneath them. Unfortunately for them, they have to learn how to change the tide of negativity faster than those CIOs with layer upon layer of bureaucracy between themselves and reality. If it takes four months for your people to get a meeting with their people, you're in a big company. If the CEO calls you directly to kick you in the head because you just barfed an audit, you're in the line of fire.
Learning to lead is therefore important. You need to explain (and prove) to the business folks that you can solve any IT problem so you can once again rise to hold a prominent seat at the table of corporate glory. You have the technologies and people to actually say "Yes" to silly business requests and make them reality. For the first time in 20 years or more, IT can actually become nimble, flexible, dynamic and, perhaps more importantly, strategic.
Learn this word: Yes. Say it with me: "Yes!" I know it's a hard word and seems foreign to you, but now that your folks have discovered server virtualization they can green light any new, crazy business requirement that's requested. Pop up a virtual machine and say "Go nuts!" Behind the scenes your talented IT folks can scramble around as always and patch whatever needs to be patched to make things work. What the business doesn't know won't hurt it, as long as it starts with a big fat "Sure, we can do that." Once your first word is "Yes," leadership becomes possible. As long as it's "No," you're going to continue to lead these good folks down a no-win path of obsolescence.