CIOs' future bright but spectrum's too broad

Corporate organization strategies force CIOs into a defence role, rather than letting them take the offensive, according to a former CIO who says CEOs have it easier.

Susan Cramm, CEO of executive coaching firm Valuedance, addressing a group of IT leaders at this year's CIO magazine conference in Sydney, said CIOs are too often forced to build one infrastructure project at a time while trying to guess what the business strategy is to ensure both are aligned.

Cramm said this is in addition to applying cost cutting measures, all of which is leading to a lot of anxiety.

"The CIO's job is too much. The CIO is acting as a surrogate user," she said. "We have developed processes to fill this part of the delivery role and we are doing that in addition to trying to be good technologists and trying to do the fiduciary role of ensuring that the right things are done; the role is too big."

Cramm defines this "fiduciary" role as one that encompasses everything from financial review and investment analysis to project monitoring and assets protection. The "delivery" role involves planning, project review, development, and operations.

"I left a CIO job, went to a CFO job which was much, much broader," Cramm said. "I had real estate, construction, legal, strategy, finance, franchising, IT, and accounting. And my CFO job was easier every day of the week than the CIO job."

Cramm added that the CIO's work is "too broad" and CIOs are doing work that, "fundamentally, we shouldn't be doing".

"The fact is that if we ran finance and human resources the way we run IT, this is what people would say, 'when is HR going to fix my people or when is finance going to give me more profit'," she said.

Although Cramm is pleased that leadership development has given her a job for which "I'm very grateful" she concedes that such development is more effective when it comes from inside the organization than outside.

In addition to the fiduciary and delivery roles, the CIO must also control "economies of scale" making sure that the services are delivered at a good cost per unit and the "enabling" role which involves the set of services provided to enable business partners to develop new products and innovation.

"If you were to pick the most important category of these four - the one that you would not let go - and that you would always ensure your leadership was focused on what would it be? Fiduciary," Cramm said. "If there was a category that you would like to get rid of what would it be? Economies of scale."

Cramm believes the future of IT is bright because of its ability to transform an organization. "We've done it before, we can do it again," she said. "IT's future is bright: there's a lot of work to be done

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