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How to become a CIO (Chief Innovation Officer) – Part 1

On a previous blog I asked ‘Does Your City Have a CIO (Chief Innovation Officer), referring to our recent Cisco telepresence session featuring Jay Nath, who has been appointed to this role for the City of San Francisco.

Of course the CIO initials also stand for Chief Information Officer, and this duality sharpens the focus on the question of how this role might evolve. There is lots of talk about how the CIO might become more strategic, more of a boardroom-level business leader capable of driving transformational change.

For example could it be the technology director who takes on this innovation role? Or is this simply too much of a stretch for a role that is dealing with operational level detail?

I would say yes, it’s certainly possible. Innovation isn’t a magic art, instead it’s like any other function of business, it’s repeatable via best practice models, and so it can be baked into the daily operations of the IT team, indeed doing so is key to achieving this business focus.

The Strategic CIO

For CIOs looking to develop a new presence at the boardroom table, it means elevating well above the level of installing and configuring servers and software, and instead being able to relate to the organization in strategic terms, achievable through capabilities in key areas:

  1. Technology-enabled Strategy – Growing the organization through IT
  2. Outsourcing and Process Automation - How to design and leverage shared services
  3. Portfolio Transformation – Managing change as an investment portfolio

1. The Cloud Strategy Map

The central backbone to this evolution is technology-enabled strategy: What role can IT play in significantly enhancing the business model for the organization – How can it help increase sales, improve efficiencies, reduce costs, etc.?

Proactively identifying these opportunities, and leading their implementation, is the primary hallmark of a strategic CIO, rather than always simply reacting to requests.

Robert Gold documents a repeatable maturity model for this in his article Enabling the Strategy-Focused IT Organization.

This covers the issues that arise that cause business management to perceive IT to be overly expensive and failing to align these costs with benefit to their business units.

Fundamentally Gold defines a scale where at one end IT is perceived and managed as a cost and at the other it;s leveraged as a strategic enabler, able to achieve competitive advantage. Central to this is the ‘Strategy Map’, a framework for achieving this strategic view of IT, and in our ongoing Cloud CIO series we’ll explain how this can be tailored and adapted specifically for Cloud Computing.

Coming Next

In Parts 2 and 3 we’ll explore these other two areas: Outsourcing and Process Automation, and Portfolio Transformation.


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