eWeek – How CIOs Can Make Their Businesses More Competitive

URL: http://blog.eweek.com/blogs/bizbytes/archive/2006/10/09/13767.aspx 

When Mark McDonald, head of Gartner’s Executive Programs, took the stage at the Gartner Symposium today in Orlando, the packed house knew immediately what they were in for: a pep rally.

Maybe it’s the fact that McDonald looks like a linebacker. Maybe it’s the fact that he works up a sweat bellowing out his CIO directives. Whatever it is, the guy is downright inspirational. And he had one single message for the IT leaders in the room: Make your company more competitive.

McDonald’s impassioned speech was long on motivation, short on details. But here’s a little factual information that backs up his belief that in 2007 CIOs must advance their companies’ competitive stance or look for other work. The early returns from Gartner’s 2007 CIO survey are starting to come in for the year, and the order of business priorities is as follows:

1.)    Improve business processes

2.)    Reduce operating costs

3.)    Attract and grow customer base

4.)    Support competitive advantage

5.)    Improve enterprise competitiveness

6.)    Grow revenue

7.)    Improve information intelligence

8.)    Deploy business capabilities

9.)    Improve bottom line profitability

10.)   Security and data protection

Just look at those results for a minute. This is what the business is expecting of IT. Grow customer base? Grow revenue? Since when is this stuff IT’s job? Just look at where traditional IT responsibilities fall on this list. Security is dead last.

To this, McDonald had this to say: “You’ve won. Oliver Stone could not have come up with a better conspiracy theory. First you automate their transactions, then you start automating their processes, then you push technology out to the edge of the network. You’ve achieved Borgdom. You’ve won. And that means that competitive advantage is now an IT issue.”

I could have done without yet another Star Trek reference at a technology conference (haven’t we moved beyond that yet?), but the point is well made. Now that IT has become so integral to all aspects of  business operations, it’s time for CIOs to make like business people.

McDonald says the key to this is to stop thinking about IT as a bunch of layers in an enterprise. He uses a cake as an analogy. See the whole cake instead, not layers of the cake. And ask yourself, before you begin any project, about what a customer wants. “Who’s hungry, how do we find them, how do we get the cake to them, how do we charge them and when they are done, how will they get another piece,” he said.

Sounds like a piece of cake, right? Sorry. Bad joke.

Anyway, McDonald reminded CIOs that they must be the idea generators. CEOs and line-of-business managers don’t understand what technology can do. CIOs must bring ideas to the table. And constantly ask themselves: What will be tangibly different about the business when I am finished [with this project]?

Well, if you believe McDonald, IT has bulled its way to a seat at the corporate table now. Now it’s time to prove it really belongs.

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One Response to “eWeek – How CIOs Can Make Their Businesses More Competitive”

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