IT Workers: Learn to Fix CIO Business Headaches

By Donald Sears  |  Posted 2010-09-30

Are CIOs technologists first or minders of the business first?

New data from the annual SIM (Society of Information Managers) survey of 172 companies points to the latter. Technology has always had a supportive role, but with a recession, the rise of outsourcing offshore, in the cloud or near home in managed services, technology leaders are expected to be drivers of business strategy and support business functions across the board.

Budgets are increasing for 2011, but so is the pressure.

As the chief researcher professor of the SIM survey Jerry Luftman of Stevens Institute of Technology told me yesterday, the number one concern of technology leaders is getting business productivity out of IT investments. The pressure for the CIO to show business value from strategic projects is on--and will continue to be on for years to come.

For the last 3 years business intelligence has been the number one technology investment by SIM survey participants which clearly points out that extracting business from data stored in a company is as important as some of the core businesses and technology systems companies run. Companies want to leverage information they have profitably.

Ironically, BI projects are some of the most expensive technology undertakings in IT, and extracting value from them can take years of determined and complex work. IT is expected to show value from investment, but also expected to cut costs.

When I asked Luftman about how BI could be a top technology investment in IT with all the cost cutting going on over the last two and a half years, here is what he said:

"I am surprised too that it remains so high other than they recognize its importance but are still struggling to implement it."

Clearly, CIOs are under pressure to prove return on investment from major enterprise investments in business intelligence, ERP systems and others. But the other major tech investments--virtualization, biz continuity/disaster recovery, and cloud computing--are mostly about saving on power consumption and capital investment in servers and other hardware while still keeping things running smoothly (and backed up). Perhaps some of the cloud work is strategy driven, but at the end of the day it's still cost control and smooth running of the business that keeps the CIO up at night.

But the business pressure is very much on. According to the SIM study, CIOs spend 75 percent of their time in non-technical related endeavors.

Here's a breakdown of how CIOs spend their time:

  • Relationship management with the business: 18 percent
  • Strategy: 13 percent
  • Non-IT: 11 percent
  • Relationship management with IT staff: 11 percent
  • HR: 9 percent
  • Operations: 12 percent
  • Relationship management with vendors: 6 percent
  • Architecture: 7 percent
  • IT governance: 9 percent

The study does not delve in to the roles of CTOs or other key IT management roles at the VP and director levels-and how business pressure affects their day to day. Clearly, this business pressure moves downstream and if you are looking to rise in an IT organization you best learn the business issues your CIO needs help in solving with and without technology.

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