I enjoyed a wide-ranging discussion this morning with John Mahoney, the former CIO of the British Library and the man who now helps Gartner to figure out where the CIO role is heading. The meeting was a taster for a presentation of new research planned for the Gartner Symposium in Cannes, France next month.
Among subjects we chatted through:
On the necessary blend of business/technology know-how in the CIO role, Mahoney says: "It's no longer adequate to be interested in business. You have to be a business leader first and a technology leader second."
The large majority of CIOs I meet appear to have strong business skills and a good sense of where their organisations and sectors are going but still typically come from an IT background. Mahoney contends that this might no longer be enough.
On achieving CEO intimacy, Mahoney says: "A slighly perplexing point is that you need to be really well aligned with silo leaders, the CFO and the CMO. A combination helps to open the door to the CEO."
That's probably fair enough. Many CIOs talk proudly about having direct reports to the CEO as if they have triumphed by bypassing the CFO and therefore scaled some luminous summit.
Mahoney adds that the latest data suggests CIOs are once again showing confidence in winning a direct report to the CEO with over half expecting to have this within three years. However, that may be false optimism on their parts if previous data acts as a guideline.
On the CIO role today and tomorrow, Mahoney says: "Previously, CIOs would talk about the importance of getting IT to achieve business alignment but now they see themselves as business transformation leaders.The next title for the CIO might be something like chief transformation officer or chief of enterprise architecture."
Maybe. There have been some worrying incursions by titles such as chief innovation officer in recent times but a blurring of CIO and COO roles might be a preferable alternative to yet another TLA emerging.
On the role of the CIO in the age of outsourcing, Maloney says: "Even if a greater amount of infastructure is sourced from somewhere else it's necessary to have someone who manages that, can question it, and the continuing dynamic nature of technology evolution means that you will always need someone with experience who can question it. It can never be 'fire and forget'. That's the defensive statement but the more proactive statement is that when you have outsourced you can be freed up to focus on processes and relationships."
This is undoubtedly true but depends on CEOs and other leaders to understand that the devil is in the detail -- and that doesn't always happen.
On CIO tenures, Mahoney reckons the average CIO lasts about three and a half years in the job and says he has spoken at Russian conferences where the average tenure of CIOs present has been nine months.
This seems to me madness and probably of a piece with the hair-triggers applying to CEOs and the general obsession with short-termism and delighting the stock markets. For all the talk about IT maturity, there's still plenty of craziness in the way IT is run.. and indeed businesses generally.