A CIO without an innovation charter?


Reading a press coverage of a survey amongst 2000 CIO's worldwide by Harvey Nash made me almost choke in my coffee. One of the outcomes was that CIO's fear that the lack of ICT innovation will lead to declining market share of their company. Well this is in line with what I've been advocating for years. What really disturbed me is that a very large portion of the CIO's admit to have no charter or even influence to innovate.

In short a CIO in order to be able to add value for a company must have:

  • A direct reporting line to the CEO
  • A seat in the board
  • An operational excellence charter
  • An innovation charter
  • Strategic decision power

If the above is not met, the role is not that of a CIO but at best that of Director of ICT. It seems that title inflation has struck massively. Let's address some of the above requirements a bit more to see what roadblocks are encountered.

When reading about job openings for CIO's, too often the reporting line is through the CFO. This makes no sense. A CFO is focused on cash flow, governance and compliancy. Not on process innovation and optimization. And thus the CIO will always suffer to get the innovation side of things funded.

Not in the board is not part of the business, simple but true. If you are not involved in strategy planning and high level decision making, at best you can react but never pro-act. Also discussing ICT consequences of potential discussions is crucial. Once taken, it is fighting against windmills to change ideas or to get the "forgotten" budget.

A CIO must have both budget and drive to innovate both his current IT-shop as well as the ICT support for the organization. Testing out new technologies, running continuous improvement programs and setting up test labs are essential to be able to react agile towards ever changing business demands.

The most difficult one is the strategic decision power. Strategic technology decisions are the obvious things CIO's are granted. But what about deciding to in- or outsource? Normally this is driven by general management, often as "easy" savings option and hardly ever as a result of a true strategic exercise. Strategic souring and organizational decisions should be part of the CIO's portfolio, of course taking within the normal budgeting and approval processes.

The CIO should have the expertise and do the work to achieve the operational excellence required. But without the proper authority to vote or decide, the access to power and the proper resources, he or she can be held only partial responsible for the outcome.

Back to the survey: Only 50% of the CIO's are part of the company board. 75% of the CIO's finds innovation a must. But just over 50% find themselves responsible for it.

So the majority of CIO's should start talking to their CEO tomorrow, or change their job title.


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