Insights and opinions on Information Technology from George Tomko, a veteran CIO turned renegade consultant.


CIOs as Brokers, not Controllers

By George M. Tomko

photo_6174_20090504-handsAs a long-time CIO and, now, consultant for CIOs, I am seeing that there is a role shift that is happening, ever so subtly, but it is going to be transformational for the role of CIO in most organizations. Perhaps it will not be manifested in a “big bang”, but all CIOs will be affected.

Some have referred to this as “CIO 2.0” as if to suggest that it is a planned and that there is some sort of documented manifesto that has popped out of some lab, university or think-tank. No, this is entirely circumstantial. It is also inevitable, unstoppable, irreversible, unavoidable, and, well, a good thing. A 2007 article by Deloitte and Touche, aimed mostly at government IT leaders, identified the changing roles and imperatives for public sector CIOs and was highly suggestive of the changes brewing for private sector CIOs.

The bottom line is this: a CIO is a broker of business solutions that involve cross functional process stewardship and a provider of a technology and infrastructure framework. Beyond this, there is an opportunity for the business-savvy CIO to contribute to joint enterprise strategy development with senior leadership. As described in an April 2008 blog post CIO 2.0: The Chief Impact Officer:

In other words, the ideal of CIOs becoming key players in the business arena is taking shape. Call it CIO 2.0 — the evolution of the IT czar into the role of “chief impact officer.” Call it the SCIO — the strategic CIO. But whatever you call it, the transformation is inevitable.

Those that are able to transcend the perception that they are zookeepers of the geeks and propeller-heads (as very talented technologists are unflatteringly labeled) will find themselves as thought leaders and key players in making things happen at the speed of business. Any attempt to be controlling, withholding, short-sighted or locked-in will simply generate powerful incentives for the organization to go it alone, underground, in any number of ways.

CIOs that fail to migrate from IT czar style CIO to chief impact officer style CIO will find themselves moved out, passed over or working for a more powerful executive (read CFO), rather than the CEO.