Why do I say this? Surely having been a champion of the role for the last 10 years I cannot make this claim?
Sadly despite a plethora of awards and a series of power lists and copycat power lists, the role of the CIO still doesn’t warrant a mention in the pages of the Financial Times. Until the role of the CIO is seen by the erstwhile pink pages as key to business change, the battle will not be won.
An all to obvious example leapt out at me recently. Preparing to interview a FTSE 250 CIO who has previously helmed technology in major telecoms and utilities companies I began, as I generally do, reading the wider business news about this organisation to get a flavour for the environment it is operating in, how the business is performing on the stock market, is it winning good or bad press for its service to customers and how is its market being disrupted or adapting to today’s technology led culture.
The organisation in question is in a market that has dominated not only business news, but also the wider front pages in 2018 due to a major rival collapsing. My interviewee is in this sector and with an organisation that has publicly stated to the Financial Times, all members of the press and shareholders that technology is at the core of where that business and its market is heading. The business wide transformation programme (headed by the CIO) has a brand name and some major investments into technology.
The CEO has said business processes and customer interactions will change as a result of technology. Of course the CEO gets a good number of column inches, the CFO gets a few mentions too. And with technology driving this change surely the CIO is quoted, named or identified in these articles? No.
If you were to analyse the pages of the leading business media outlets, good luck finding a correlation between technology having role in business change and the need for a CIO to be the leader or at least head broker. In organisational structure charts and board meetings the CIO is on the increase and that is good news and a testament to the cadre of CIO in the community today.
But my concern is that having a technology leader championing and brokering the role of technology in business change is not seen akin to the finance leader. That cannot be a sustainable position. Just as organisations absolutely have to have a good finance leader, technology has reached the point that its impact on the organisation is as critical as good financial management. This was made all too clear to me yesterday by the technology leadership team of an international manufacturer that has also garnered a few headlines in recent years. Optimising the business and improving process controls has delivered significant change and helped that business survive in a turbulent economy. All of us in business know the importance of cash flow. And all of us in business have to know the importance of technology to enhance or damage our organisations.
Part of the problem is that when it comes to the role of technology and its leaders, we as a community are marking our own homework. As I said there is a wealth of awards and recognition for the role of the CIO and this is great and to be saluted. But just as many CIOs have discovered when assessing inherited outsourcing contracts, outside independent assessment is critical.
As the CIO role matures. As the role of technology becomes increasingly important to society, vertical markets and our organisations, so the judgement and awarding of accolades has to come from the outside. When CEOs champion CIOs, then the investors and market analysts and associated media will understand the value of CIO leadership and place the role where it belongs, as critical to business success. CTOs of tech firms are tracked for their share option sales, so why isn’t the performance of the CIO or CTO seen as vital to business health. After all, TSB recently demonstrated just how critical and how much brand damage can be done. On that occasion, I expect there was relief the CEO took the stand.