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Saturday, April 26, 2014



In my humble 23+ years of Global experience across 50+ countries, I had interacted with many CIOs. Some are very powerful people like in Banking, Insurance, Telco, Auto etc and some quite less powerful but solid technocrats mostly involved in solution companies patching various technologies into one creating some of the most complex solutions which actually can be designed in most simplified manner.


For example in Short term Insurance sector, to manage and dig out fraud we use various analytical tools costing millions but no one would like to implement a simple solution like virtual eye which actually filter out the fraud in very first place of origin. So to invest $50 million to investigate $100 million fraud is better or Invest $2 million for prevent $100 million is better. But unfortunately most companies choose the first one because its lobbied, pushed and a nice future picture is presented by some of the most expensive sales people.

So either way what comes into the end user space is a patchwork of rocket science. The most unfortunate part is that 80% of these CIOs don’t want to take risk of innovation and are just internal brokers for big IT Vendors. For example, we say X client is I shop, Y client is O shop, Z client is S shop and so on.

In last 5 years all big IT vendors are trying to say how good and innovative they are building Cloud as if they invented Cloud for the first time. The fact is, when I opened my first Yahoo account almost 20+ years back, what was it? A Cloud based email??

In another joke, today everyone is racing for Big Data. Yes the amount of data what is generated today is much more then what was there before smart phones and would be far greater in another 10 years. The requirement is Quality Data and this requirement is today and was 10 years back too and will be in future. What is required is a robust simple analytical tool to dig out the right stuff. Even if we get 40% quality data, which is available in current data, the business can jump by almost 250%.

One simple example is “single view of current customer”. Most of customer centric organization like retail, banks, insurance, airline, telco don’t have this in place. They don’t even analysis the user trend with current customers, what they will do with so called BIG DATA?? But still our so called brilliant CIO ask for millions to get it because the big IT vendors have pumped him so much that they believe it will solve all problems.

The fact is that moon will remain where it is and no one can bring it to you weather it’s a big IT vendor or your lover.

We CIOs have to understand that IT is a business enabler and not a business.


The new CIO is not an alien coming from outer space but a person who has the ability of multi tasking and highly business savvy person. This person has to be one who can stand on rooftop and look around. He should be able to understand the effects of other industries on it’s organization and can plan 5 years down the line along with the cultural factor both local and international.

It is well proven that if you have a CIO who understand business and its surrounding well, is the most successful. Unless you look for someone who is either “yes sir” or “file pusher”.

I have seen many customers especially in South African banking and Insurance sectors where the big IT vendors and consulting houses like the I’s, O’s, S’s, A’s, D’s etc have put in their employees as Sector CIOs. I fail to understand how can they bring in innovation since they have vested interest in pushing business to core employer.

Hence in my view based on hand-on practical experience, A CIO is a multi tasking person with business mind set.

Chief Information Officer : In today fast moving space, Chief Information Officer is a combination of 4 core I’s.
  • Chief Integration Officer : The integration officer will connect various IT systems. One important task will be bridging legacy and cloud services.
  • Chief Infrastructure Officer : Top priorities for infrastructure officers will include eliminating "shelfware," adoptingvirtualisation and cloud technologies, and renegotiating contracts in the best interest of current & 5 years of organization requirement.
  • Chief Intelligence Officer : The intelligence officer will be tasked with getting the right data to the right people on the right devices. This includes generating quality data, data mining & analysis.
  • Chief Innovation Officer : Innovation officers will focus on identifying disruptive technologies and finding ways to apply them in the enterprise in an innovative manner then just buying what is sold by vendors.

Few years back, the job was quite simple. You have a need, call few vendors, understand their offerings, and discuss cost and award. If it exceeds timeline, blame it on business and get extra time and money.
Today the new requirement is not once in 6 months or year but almost every week at the least and the biggest challenge, how to deliver the solution to business in the least possible time and money.
These new challenges are not limited to solution but governance, standards and to keep the team together motivated all the time. The world has moved toward 24x7x365 and time wasted is nothing but advantage to competition.

Some of the core challenges where I personal work and experience are listed below. I am sure more can be added and that means one need to learn all the time.
  1. Technology Strategic Plan
  2. The Projects for Business
  3. The Projects for IT
  4. The PMO Office and Approved Process
  5. The Technology SWOT
  6. The Vision / Strategic Choices
  7. The Strategic Alignment between IT and Business
  8. Super Strategic Issues
  9. The Technology Structure
  10. The Balanced Scorecard
  11. The CIO Performance Scorecard
  12. The IT Risk Universe
  13. Risk and Compliance Challenge
  14. King III Scorecard
  15. Asset Health Assessments
  16. Innovation, Cloud and Mobility
  17. Customer Satisfaction Survey
  18. Deployment Calendar
  19. Application Landscape

Till 10 years back, the business had a choice between local operation and global. Today globalization is need and that means changing business expectations. This new dynamics to business has created bigger challenges to The CIO in modern times. The CIO has to change and change very fast. Now its no more a choice but necessity. Either you change or vanish, and till the CIO change, business can’t change.
Hence the new CIO role should have following core skill set / ability.
  • Innovator : Cannot buy source of competitive advantage out of a box
  • Architect : To mould disparate and isolated non-integrated IT worlds into one
  • Personal, Hybrid Skill Set : Ability to blend business and technology experience and knowledge
  • Skills Management : Build Broader IT skills to meet business expectations
  • Strategist as well as a tactical player : Great involvement and focus on activities of a strategic nature
  • Information Broker : Make information and appropriate skills available across the business enterprise
  • New Leadership Style : From command-and-control to lead by example; good people motivator with positive relationships
  • Project Delivery excellence : CIO’s need to make this a key focus area, in alignment with business strategies
  • Build Business Credibility : The CIO needs to build interpersonal relationships with business executives. Get business results from available scarce resources
  • Making a Difference : Continue delivering operations excellence, but now additionally become a business partner in delivering competitive advantage via distinctive project solutions
  • Collaborator : Improving integration and collaboration across boundaries
  • Center of Excellence : Built internal center of excellence for natural learning both on business and IT for continuous team development and reduce dependency on external contractors.
  • Social Media : Today’s CIO should be an active participant on Social Media.
With above explanation of desired skills of Future CIO, the most relevant question is “How The CIO remain relevant for the future”. In my experience and practice following are some of the more relevant steps one need to follow.
  • Simplify the operating environment, governance, work processes and task priorities that form the context for IT work.
  • Move toward a simpler organisational structure for IT, centralising infrastructure responsibilities and decentralising application development and implementation responsibilities wherever possible.
  • Focus some of your time and energy outside the functional IT organisation. Spend time with external Customers, Internal Customers, Suppliers and social media
  • Establish clear, explicit goals for shortening IT decision and development cycles. Focus the entire IT organisation on accelerating all of its core business processes.
  • Manage your own time and personal agenda carefully-and explicitly. Be sure to reserve enough time for reflection, learning, and peer-to-peer networking.
  • Adapt your leadership style to match the needs of your organisation, combining collaborative problem solving with task-focused direction setting to produce a cohesive, committed organisation.
  • Focus your time and attention on strategic issues, on external relationships, and on the future.
  • Develop an open door policy within your organization but definitely your department and motivate people to think out of box ideas.

Greatness in a CIO is not a function of the company they work for, the salary they earn, the size of their title or other factors. There are great CIOs at small companies and not so great CIOs at big companies.

In today’s changing IT World where a CIO’s role is very much in flux. Following are some of the top 10 qualities of a good, resulted oriented, visionary CIO.
  • Good supply management capability
  • A solid understanding of financials
  • Ability to think strategically to support the business’s goals and objectives
  • Managing expectations effectively
  • Tech savvy
  • Selecting a good team
  • Ability to rally the troops
  • Visionary outlook
  • Politically savvy without being political
  • Skilled communicator
It is not wrong to say that in this new world of mobility, A CIO should actually be termed as CTM (Chief Technology Marketer)

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