Why Isn’t ‘Staying Employed’ in the Top Ten List of CIO Issues?

Estimated reading time: 4 mins

InformationWeek just announced the ‘Top Ten CIO Issues for 2009 ‘ and I was wondering why ‘Staying Employed’ didn’t feature on the list!

If you believed everything you read in the newspapers or watched on TV, then we’ll all be out of work in 3 months. The economy will grind to a halt, so we’ll all have to grow potatoes at home and produce our own energy. So why isn’t the media suggesting that the biggest concern for IT leaders is keeping their job?

What they don’t want you to know, because it doesn’t sell stories, is that people are tougher than that, and that tough people and determination will pull us through the recession. CIOs aren’t afraid of losing their jobs – and like all IT workers, they realize that technology is the answer to economic challenges, not the cause.

All my experience and insight tells me that IT will be the fulcrum of change in 2009 that pulls us through the recession. IT isn’t the cost-center that needs reigning in, it’s the business investment that will pay dividends.

The ‘recession’ has triggered the corporate survival instinct. Business issues aren’t just those concerning customers’ needs and the marketplace; they’re also about the basic hygiene of running an organization – capital, fixed costs, a focus on core activity, and automation.

Information Week

Just look at the InformationWeek article . The Top Ten issues for CIOs in 2009 are:

  1. Customer-Facing Innovation
  2. Attacking the 80/20 Ratio
  3. The Challenging Economy
  4. The Strategic CIO
  5. Cloud Computing
  6. The SaaS Effect
  7. Virtualization
  8. Outsourcing
  9. Green Computing
  10. Radical Desktops

What do you see? Six out of the ten listed are about cost avoidance:

  • ‘Attacking the 80/20 Ratio’ challenges the spend on fixed costs and infrastructure, and aims to free up more budget for innovation.
  • ‘Cloud Computing’ is a long-term investment to reduce the amount of capital needed by IT and to put the management of technology into hands of experts at lower costs.
  • ‘The SaaS Effect’ will continue as CIOs look for higher-value alternatives in software provision, reducing overall cost of ownership.
  • ‘Virtualization’ will bring infrastructure costs down, assisting in ‘Attacking the 80/20 Ratio’ too. It enables CIOs to sweat hardware assets and to lower the costs of backup and DR services.
  • The goal of ‘Green Computing’ is to reduce energy consumption (and therefore reduce energy costs), as well as encourage recycling.

Looking at the list again, you could say that some of the greatest challenges for IT departments this year is maximizing the value of IT investment, by focusing on efficiency and just as importantly, effectiveness . The two mantras will be:

  1. Doing things right (efficiency)
  2. Doing the right things (effectiveness)

Haven’t CIOs and IT professionals always been asked to behave this way, though? Haven’t these technologies been around for a while now, but weren’t taken seriously or de-prioritized below more ‘sexy’ innovation?

Good questions (I tell myself), but taking the cynicism away, the point now is that the economic situation we find ourselves in means we have to take the things IT has been talking about FOR YEARS very seriously now. The world has conspired against itself to put these issues, (no) these solutions , at the forefront of the agenda. No longer are there solutions waiting for a problem!

This New Age of realization that we have to take technology innovations seriously, is upon us. The challenge is to make sure it’s a sustainable investment , which is why (quite rightly) a big issue remains on how the CIO becomes (or maintains) the position of a ‘Strategic CIO ‘. Interventions to bring about Efficiency and Effectiveness shouldn’t just be tactical. A long-term plan of continuous innovation in the above areas is needed.

I like what Eric Brown says on his blog, who also comments about InformationWeek’s article. To quote Eric:

If CIO’s focus on the three main areas of Leadership, Strategy and Technology,then the “Top 10 Issues for 2009? or “Top 10 Issues for 2020? will be easy to solve. Why? Because the CIO and IT Leadership should have been leading the IT group to a proper technology strategy that aligns with the business strategy.

The twist I’d add is that the recession has brought some forgotten truth’s into business:

We must run efficient and effectives organizations and exploit technologies that enable us to do that AHEAD OF THE ECONOMIC CYCLE.

So a key element of ‘Business Strategy’ should be to always ensure that operations are efficient and effective whilst also pioneering in their market, in whatever the organization does. Doing so means survival and stability in tough times, and the truth is, that’s what customers want – not bells and whistles!

‘Staying Employed’ must the last concern of CIOs right now – there is a lot of work ahead!

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