Three harmonious factors that change the CIO octave

Wikipedia: The term harmony derives from the Greek ‘harmonia’, meaning “joint, agreement, concord”, from the verb ‘harmozo’, “to fit together, to join.

The future of the CIO role comes down to this very issue. Many speak of the demise of the Chief Information Officer (CIO). Yet, a growing contingent of folks sees the path to success for the ‘new’ CIO role. Make no mistake; the (old) traditional CIO looks little to nothing like the (new) transformational CIO role. Unfortunately, many in traditional CIO roles will never make it into transformational CIO roles. The leap between the two roles will prove too great for many.

While these changes may seem obvious, actual widespread adoption continues to lag. Companies and their business leaders are craving these CIO success factors, yet they remain illusive.

Shifting focus

For those looking to shift gears to a higher orbit, there are a number of core success factors that come to light. Each of these provides the alignment necessary to refocus the CIO role toward a business-centric role.

  1. Follow the Money: Focus on key areas that govern the flow of money both in and out of the company.
  2. Partner: Go beyond just the basics of partnering with fellow business leaders. Truly understand their objectives and propose ways to enhance or expand their opportunities. In order to partner, collaboration is a must.
  3. Communicate: Providing regular status reports will not cut it. Use communication vehicles to communicate the IT priorities and how they benefit both the company and the specific leader’s objectives.

All about business

At a CIO Summit last week, the executive recruiter panel addressed how CEOs and other business leaders in search of a CIO are changing their perspective and ostensibly, their wish list. Instead of asking the executive recruiter to ‘get me one of these’ with specific technical or leadership skills, they are looking for CIOs with greater business knowledge about their industry…and the ability to apply that knowledge.

Similar to other IT roles where someone has a certification (ie: CCIE, MCSE, ITIL, CISSP), the certification itself brings little to no value without the ability to apply it. A CIO in title may only bring limited value without the applicability. For the CIO, this means quickly understanding the industry, company, customers and how the flow of money takes place.

Follow the Money

Key to starting is in understanding how the company makes money. How does the ecosystem of money flow both in, and out, of the company? Which departments or divisions are key to driving both top-line revenue and bottom-line expenses for the company. What attributes are critical in maintaining this ‘engine’ of commerce within the company? A successful CIO will clearly understand the process, the players and the levers of opportunity.


Partnering today means building a symbiotic two-way relationship that mutually benefits both parties. This means that the CIO must build critical relationships with fellow c-suite executives across the organization. In order to accomplish this, the CIO must be open-minded and collaborative in nature. Walking in with a closed-minded, technology-centric agenda need not apply. One must possess the ability to reach escape velocity from the daily grind. In addition, the language used in these conversations needs to shift from technology to business. For many, this means talking about money and how it applies to the executive(s) at the table. Applicability of the conversation is key to the success of the collaborative process. The CIO needs to lead this conversation, which may push them well outside their typical comfort zone.


We have all heard the phrase: Communicate, communicate, communicate. But is it the right communication? More is not always better if it isn’t the right content. Part and parcel with the collaborative nature of the relationship, the CIO needs to clearly communicate their priorities and how they benefit the company and/or the specific executive’s priorities. In some case, the CIO’s objectives may not benefit the executive in question, but that doesn’t mean it should be omitted. There is a level of appreciation in understanding (and respecting) the CIO’s methods of prioritization among fellow executives. This leads the CIO to greater credibility and buy-in.

CIO = Career Is Over?

In a word: Hardly. The role of the traditional CIO is at a state of plateau. However, the role of the traditional CIO is just getting ramped up. The business-centric transformational CIO will thrive and succeed beyond the current expectations. One trend that exemplifies this is the appointment of CIOs to corporate boards of publicly traded companies. We can only expect far more opportunities from the CIO as the momentum of this evolution takes firm hold.

Applying agile development to the business

There has been terrific coverage this week on agile development and its alignment with agile principles implemented throughout the enterprise. Strategic corporate management, database issues, and the basics have all been addressed, with some common themes of short-term development and deployment and managed and mitigated failure emerging as a common message.
Strategic corporate management
An interview with CVS Caremark SVP and CIO Stephen Gold provides great perspective on how agile development meshes with corporate strategy. The nexus of the retail and medical sectors makes for a rapidly changing business environment, and Gold offers the roadmap for how he has put CVS Caremark, as well as his earlier employers, on a path to quickly enable an IT department to support that change.
Gold explains that CVS Caremark’s business agility comes from being able to combine elements of its drugstore, prescription benefit management, and retail medical clinic businesses in new ways. Toward that capability, there has to be something of an interchangeable, plug-and-play aspect to its corporate IT, including its access to data. He describes the following, transformational use of agile within CVS Caremark:
“We’re building an enterprise project office. We have transformed project management in the company; now not only are we using those techniques for IT projects, but for business projects as well. We’re also doing some hiring now with the quality office, again starting it inside the IT organization and eventually using it to engineer quality into all of the work that we do. We are also focusing on a data office as a partnership between my most senior technical data leader and his corresponding leader on the business side, and they’re jointly developing the next generation of data strategy for the company.”
Database issues
On a technical level, ‘Your database is a major agility risk factor. Here’s how to fix it’, offers a fair argument from a database tools vendor for addressing the database side of agile software development. The article acknowledges how database construction and management in some ways has been subject to less automation and modernization than has the software development process, and thus has often been the first and most persistent source of system ‘silos’ within an enterprises IT environment.
In the article, Yaniv Yehuda, co-founder and CTO of DBmaestro, outlines his person personal list of best practices in the software development life cycle:
“Requirement management – A continuous process throughout a project of documenting, prioritising and tracking requirements, change requests, and trouble tickets, then controlling change and communicating to relevant stakeholders. All participants must clearly understand why changes are being made.
Development – The ongoing management of changes, using version control and change management, will ensure that it is clear who did what, when, and why. Task based development is a great way to correlate development work with requirement management.
Build – Link development changes with the requirements that initiated them, and build the next relevant release. Only agreed-upon changes should be implemented: nothing more, nothing less.
Testing – Quick development cycles challenge our ability to properly test our projects, as there is simply not enough time in each cycle. Regression testing and unit testing can effectively help focus on relevant changes, while making sure nothing else gets broken in the meantime.
Release – Release automation is a great way to make sure we create and test our change packages, and manually process them as little as possible. The more we automate, the more we can expect the same result from the same steps we take.
Operation – Roll back scenarios should be ready for each release. This is our last safety net.”
Yehuda further offers agile development and database change management as the two key elements to integrate database development into the larger SDLC process testing, regression testing, and automation as critical factors to mitigating database-based risk in the new environment.
Building for the very short term
An article in diginomica this week quotes Matt Quinn, the CTO for Tibco, “Businesses need to remember that success doesn’t last, so even if the business gets the right tools for the job now they probably won’t be right in a few months’ time”. Even more provocatively, he suggests that every application is going to be “beta”. That is, but the time it has reached the final stage of being “ready” it will likely be time to kill it off.
The basics
The MIT Technology Review yesterday posted ‘What every company should know about agile software development’, which is a primer on the process from the perspective of an agile tools vendor that argues for the adoption of the culture across the enterprise. The need for implementing small, rapid changes is, with agile development, becoming a commonplace in the realm of software development. But the recognition that digital capabilities are making nearly all firms providers of software capabilities at some level makes these principles both applicable and necessary across the enterprise.
The application of agile principles within enterprise environments has not been without its pitfalls and failures. A mature understanding of the concept requires sufficient controls on quality and rollout to the customer level, especially, that mitigate the damage of inadequate testing for critical environments.
But those companies that have seen its benefits also see the inevitable application of the agile management within their business units. Otherwise, the real gains in the technology will not be realized. Firms such as CVS Caremark that successfully combine agile development with agile business management naturally implement a shared responsibility for systems, such as a data office with both business and technical staff, as project management increasingly adheres to agile principles across the business.
Click here for a Gigaom Research report on How to unlock the promise of agile in the enterprise.

The organizational challenge of disruptive technologies

As firms grapple with implementing the mobile, cloud, and big data technologies that are transforming their businesses, getting the organizational process and procedures right for managing those implementations is often the greatest challenge.

Computerworld this week covers an IBM survey on the mobile strategies of 600 enterprises, finding in effect that only half of the companies surveyed currently have an effective mobile strategy. No more than 50% of the participants reported that their mobile strategy is aligned with the overall business strategy, that the organization has a clear funding mechanism for mobile initiatives, that there is executive-level oversight for mobile initiatives, or that there is an established governance structure for mobile initiatives. Although only 20% of the firms believe they have a superior or leading mobile strategy today, 44% anticipate pulling ahead of their peers in the next three years.

Among the other tidbits: The subset of those firms reporting the best and most pervasive use and management of mobile technology reports both greater plans to increase mobile funding next year and a greater mobile strategy role for the chief marketing executive. Overall, the CIO is seen to have the most influence, as would be expected, with the CFO number two when it comes to funding, the line of business number two for generating ideas and setting or managing priorities, and the chief technology officer number two in providing governance.

The role of governance is critical in a firm’s ability to manage rapid innovation. One banking industry participant is quoted as stating, “Our governance structure—which includes representatives from finance, risk, operations, customer service, product and application development, project management, technology, marketing and strategy—has been immensely effective in terms of increasing the precision and speed with which we deploy mobile solutions.”

And banks shall lead them

Banking has always been an early adopter of new technology. Bank of America offered a glimpse of how it is juggling the innovation of technology with the requirements of the bank, as reported by American Banker. Hari Gopalkrishnan, the bank’s eCommerce, architecture and segments technology executive described an application process whereby the bank’s best programmers are first brought together to create functional code. The bank’s compliance officers follow immediately thereafter, to assure that requisite encryption, opt in/out, geo caching and other standards are incorporated into the application.

Bank of America took first place honors for user experience, accessibility, and alerting platforms in Javelin Strategy & Research’s annual mobile banking survey, as also reported this week by American Banker. As evidence of the rapid adoption of mobile bankers, the survey found 45% of consumers had used mobile banking in the past 90 days, up from 26% in 2012.

As seen in the IBM survey, executives in other industries are expecting mobile’s importance to grow as rapidly—but they don’t believe their companies are organizationally ready to handle it.

Few enterprises are ready for the app economy’s data explosion

In the new app economy, organizations no longer own all the data they need to make accurate business decisions. This loss of control requires data marketplaces and data syndication models that few enterprises are currently prepared for. Apigee’s Anant Jhingran looks at three important steps that companies need to take to succeed in the app economy.

Why HP is betting the farm on Autonomy

Hewlett-Packard plans to spend some $10.25 billion to acquire Autonomy, the United Kingdom–based software and services company. HP’s balance sheet currently has $13 billion in cash. Why is the company making such a big bet? According to HP’s CEO, Leo Apotheker, it’s now or never.