From the outside looking in, all IT organizations appear to have the same reason for being. But as a CIO, you should know that there is no one type of IT organization that's right for all companies and all industries.

In some companies, IT is the business, while in others, IT is seen as quite separate from the business. Some organizations make IT investment a priority, but in others, driving IT costs down is key. Some IT groups invest in developing project managers and are all about innovation, while others focus on managing vendor contracts and spend little on R&D. And in some organizations, IT is highly regarded, while in others, it's viewed as a barrier to getting things done.

Amid all these differences, business demands and top management expectations dictate which type of IT is right for a company, and three clear archetypes for successful IT organizations emerge: the Solid Utility, the Trusted Supplier and the Partner Player.

Once the business executives have settled on one of these images, it often persists even when the bulk of IT activities are outsourced. Very large companies may have all three types represented in various divisions or business units.

As a CIO, if you are to effectively articulate IT strategy, dictate trade-offs and help your group operate more like a business, you and your bosses and customers must understand and agree on the IT model for your company.

Here's a quick quiz to help you better understand which archetype is right for your company. For each question, choose the answer that is closest to your experience. Tally the corresponding numbers for a final score.

Once you've got your archetype, you may want to consult the CIO to-do list at right, which will help you understand what your bosses are probably expecting of you.

How does your company view the role of technology?

  1. Infrastructure technology is critical; application criticality varies by business unit.
  2. Technology is critical for enterprise functions such as sales, marketing and finance.
  3. Technology is integral to go-to-market offerings.

What type of technology does your company require?

  1. The standard for infrastructure excellence.
  2. The standard for functional excellence.
  3. Unique, for competitive advantage.

What type of visibility into IT does your company require?

  1. Financial.
  2. Functional department management.
  3. Executive team.

How does your company view the mission of IT?

  1. Keep the lights on.
  2. Do the project right.
  3. Achieve the company's mission.

How is IT funded in your company?

  1. Charged or allocated back to business areas.
  2. Budgeted as part of functional business unit budgets.
  3. Budgeted within enterprise strategic planning process.

How is IT measured in your company?

  1. Service-level agreements and availability, user-level satisfaction surveys and help desk responsiveness.
  2. Functional (e.g., sales, finance) project scorecards.
  3. All of the above, plus measures of direct contribution to revenue.

How is IT governance handled in your company?

  1. Chief financial officer sponsors and approves; IT asset management.
  2. Functional steering committee; project management office.
  3. CEO/executive team sets IT agenda; IT portfolio management.

What is your company's IT architecture?

  1. Technical architecture; infrastructure standardisation.
  2. Application architecture; application design standardisation.
  3. All of the above, plus business architecture and strategic road maps.

Scoring

8-12: Solid Utility

13-19: Trusted Supplier

20-24: Partner Player

CIO to-do list

As a CIO, your mission is closely tied to business executives' perception of IT. Here's what company executives probably expect of you, depending on which archetype they've chosen:

Solid Utility
  • Provide dial-tone reliability
  • Find innovative ways to cut IT costs
  • Monitor vendor performance and cost
  • Effectively support back-office applications
  • Achieve high scores on user satisfaction surveys
Trusted Supplier

Everything under Solid Utility, plus...

  • Evaluate and implement new software
  • Standardise the application project business case
  • Train staff in timely and effective application project management
  • Recruit business analysis and design skills
  • Audit and review projects with functional sponsors
  • Refresh and renew the application architecture
Partner Player

Everything under Solid Utility and Trusted Supplier, plus...

  • Allocate staff to research and develop new technologies
  • Recruit developers for customer technology design/integration
  • Ensure that staff has a deep understanding of business and strategy
  • Drive an enterprise architecture that can flex with competitive strategy
  • Provide dashboard visibility into IT's effect on revenue and cost