What is it about the CIO function that at once interests and pains IT leaders? A CIO I posed this question to, replied a bit indirectly when he said that he had no issues with his current role but he never wanted to have the epithet 'support function' describe his next.
Writing for our sister publication Network World, Yankee Group founder Howard Anderson referred to the CIO role as one of the worst jobs going around - "A job with a lofty title and plenty of land mines, almost all of them more related to Machiavelli than technology".
The anguish that Anderson revealed in the column came from his friend, a fairly embittered CIO - "When you come down to it, I am just a high-priced purchasing agent... So what is my job? Compromising all day long. And trying to find a reason to rationalize this complete mess we call information systems."
He went on to tell Anderson that not only did he get blamed when systems went down, but he also had to put up with business leaders who had their ideas on how they could do his job better.
Is that what the CIO role is all about - a litany of woes? I made it a point to discuss Anderson's column with a few members of CIO's Advisory Board.
Alagu Balaraman, who heads strategy at Britannia, observed that while Anderson's friend was probably a good IT manager, he seemed a poor CIO.
Was the issue at hand one more about poor social skills and a lack of a service orientation? It seems so.
"By definition, the work that a CIO does cuts across functional boundaries and is intrusive to many people. Political or social skills are needed to get things done despite a lack of authority over people you deal with," Alagu pointed out.
Service orientation for an IT department is about a business focus and a style of working, said Alagu who went on to quote a CEO: Everyone in the company should be either selling or closely helping others to sell.
If someone likes people, business and information, that person would probably enjoy the position that Anderson's friend and you are in. Then Anderson's column would have started with "Wow! Let me tell you about the best job in the world!
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