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5 Reasons the CIO Matters More than Ever

The essential concept of the CIO has been called into question. According to a survey by Ohio State University, 61% of CIOs are seen as impediments to business innovation. But Thornton May, writing for Forbes, believes that not only are CIOs not roadblocks, but they should actually be guiding traffic. May explores five reasons why this is the case.

Beyond “Device Santa Clause”

The first thing to point out is that CIOs are misunderstood to be digital “stock boys” who merely supply the businesses with the ready-made technologies they demand. May calls this the “Device Santa Claus” role. Yet a more nuanced understanding of what the CIO does reveals someone who is more like an artisan: a highly specialized and tech-savvy person consulting with users and venture capitalists to craft customized solutions.

Expense Reductions and Tech Illusions

Part of the CIO’s bad reputation was arguably unintentional and unavoidable, since, “During the last decade, IT leadership skills atrophied as many organizations engaged in draconian ‘denominator’ [i.e., cost/expense] reduction exercises.” With the economy recovering, May argues that many CIOs will be allowed to reclaim their status as leaders who determine where the business is going, instead of simply being asked to maintain efficiency. There is also the simple fact that IT is complex, meaning that “self-assembly” of technology systems is essentially a myth. Along with that myth comes the illusion that owning sophisticated (and user-friendly) technology will somehow give us a better grasp over technology itself. In reality, the exact inverse is true, since having better ways to use technology requires more sophisticated and hence more complex / challenging methods for designing and creating these tools.

A World without CIOs

Remove the CIO from today’s technology equation, and what you have are executives scrambling to pick up the pieces of their broken business empires. Take it from May:

For an enterprise to be world class, every datum has to be managed, analyzed, put to work, and then properly archived or disposed of. Trust me: there’s enough digital work for everyone. The world has gone digital. Companies rise and fall on the quality of their information technology.

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About Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master's degree in communications at Penn State University.

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