CIO, get out there!

Column by Stijn Viaene, professor of Management Information Systems
(Source: Smart Business Strategies, February 2011)

  • Professor at KULeuven and Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School
  • Partner at Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School
  • Deloitte Research Chair Bringing IT to Board Level

The Chief Information Officer (CIO) of tomorrow will spend 70% of her time out of the house. At customers and suppliers, at conferences with colleagues, in business schools. And don’t forget the virtual world: wending your way through life blogging, chatting, tweeting... Then, she’ll use the remaining 30% to implant this externally acquired 'business intelligence' safely and securely into the organisation, while socialising, negotiating and inspiring.

I have no idea whether these figures are right. Where did I find them? Just made them up. Unbecoming an academic? Perhaps. There are those that make their living from prophesies. But just think a moment.

We live in turbulent times, right? Times in which the unimaginable is no longer so unimaginable. Good administration without a government, for example. Belgium as role model for the world! The practice of strategic management is being rethought to help you survive in a world of 'unknown unknowns'. And the times are golden again for IT providers. After all, business information systems need to become 'smarter'. Just like CIOs.

The challenge is to use industrialised information flows to turn the dynamism of the external world into an internal dynamism, at the same velocity. Everybody swears by 'operational excellence' these days. A truly magical word for every self-respecting IT department. And it’s just as valid for other departments, of course. But where is your point of comparison? Correct! Outside your organisation. The benchmark is over there with the competition! Just like 'customer intelligence' is with your customers, not with your sales people.

So, let your CIO explore and revel in the external world. Encourage it. More than ever, we need system thinkers (and doers!) at the highest level in our organisations who see how value can be drawn from external information. You’re going to need it, in these turbulent times. And then there are those at the onset of 2011 who are doubtful about the CIO’s role surviving in the future. You’re sadly mistaken. Happy New Year!

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