Does the CIO Need to be at the Big Table to Promote Agility and Openness?

Although this is a little off topic, I wanted to just put this out there. I may be stretching the point of the article a bit beyond reason, but this is where it led me. I recently read the Ernst & Young report titled “CIO critical for driving growth and productivity” I made a few mental notes and just want to document and share them. The principal observation made in the report was that CIO’s frequently are not included in the “C-Suite,” and when they are, they tend to be marginalized. The general conclusion is that this is not good for anybody – the CIOs or the organizations that they serve. I noted a few things and have a few questions.

Honestly, I was a little surprised by some the report’s findings. For example,

According to Ernst & Young’s DNA of the CIO report released today, less than one in five CIOs (17%) have a seat at the top table and less than half of CIOs (43%) are deeply involved in executive decision-making.

I would have guessed that the CIO role was much closer to the chief executive and more influential.  Perhaps the sample does not well represent the role of the CIO in higher education.

Throughout the report there is continuous reference to the role of the CIO and technology. Sometimes the reference is to technological innovation, or technology expertise, while reference is infrequently made to technology services and information management. The implication is that technology is either responsible for innovation or that innovation simply takes the form of technology. My organizational experience suggests that the CIO is normally in the best position to develop governance norms, work flows, and management techniques that help create value at the intersection of organizational need, service, and technology. And, to the extent that governance is something that is important in the “C-Suite,” a thoughtful CIO’s absence could be badly missed. This by the way is not inconsistent with the report’s conclusion.

It also struck me that agile principles and agile project management techniques, if developed at all, are most frequently first adopted and incubated in information systems/services divisions. When agility is practiced its values and techniques commonly do not propagate outside of IT to other functional business units and are not well understood in the ”C-Suite.” I wonder that when there is a lack of organization-wide adoption of agile principles it has some sort of connection with the CIO’s marginalization – at least in organizations that have an agile IT culture. If it is the case, I believe that this may be perhaps the most significant lost opportunity for the organization. I wonder if there is any connection at all between organization-wide adoption of agile management, transparency, and openness and the role of CIOs take in executive management? Perhaps though it is simply the transparent management and open decision making necessary to support agility that makes agile practice difficult to adopt. The values and principles of agility do require a particular discipline that may be more easily adopted within technology divisions.

So, does the CIO need to be at the big table to promote agility and openness, and even when there does it matter?

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