The CIO's Perfect Storm


By Eileen Feretic

At the recent Interop conference in New York, I had a lively discussion with Stephen Elliott, vice president of strategy at CA (www.ca.com), about the changing role of the CIO. "The economic climate has put an incredible amount of pressure on IT executives," he said. "Their budgets and staff have been cut, but they're still expected to meet the business's requirements for technology."

Add to that the "foundational changes" required in the CIO's skill set. "We're seeing a perfect storm of requirements," Elliott said. "CIOs must be business-savvy and respond to the requirements of the business; they must understand costs, budgets and ROI; and they must manage and automate processes."

That's a lot to ask of someone who's already overburdened and understaffed, but it clearly defines the role of today's--and tomorrow's--CIO.

Elliott suggested that CIOs should run their IT organizations on a service provider model. They must find out what level of technology services the business requires, he said, and then determine how much they are willing to pay for those services. This will compel the business to prioritize its requests and will help the IT team provide appropriate, relevant services that fit within the budget.

During 2009, budget cuts forced many CIOs to shelve projects that had the potential to save the company money or help it increase revenue. Adopting a service provider model should help business and technology executives communicate clearly and effectively about the types of technologies and services that are most critical to the company's success.

This approach also should enable CIOs to view all technology investments in terms of how they affect the business, Elliott said. Another plus: By working closely together, business and IT executives can build a strong relationship, and that will benefit the enterprise as a whole.

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