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CIOs on the scrapheap - The Register wants your input for vox pop article

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CIOs on the scrapheap - The Register wants your input for vox pop article

We are going to run a vox pop on The Register - and it concerns the Death of the CIO (note, not the death of a CIO). We are giving readers the opportunity to suggest the questions that we should pose to help us frame our article. My call to action, featuring the premise of the proposed article is posted on The Reg. All contributions accepted - and (most) welcome!

(P.S. The front page of our new user forums (beta) is at http://forums.theregister.co.uk/section/user. Want an upgrade for new forum super powers? Rattle my cookie jar.)

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CIOs - writings on the walls

Anyone in tech publishing knows that computer vendors are obsessed with reaching CIOs - and any rag with "CIO" on the masthead is guaranteed advertising dollars. If you have a CIO-focused mag you must have a CIO panel, and possibly, an advisory board composed of CIOs. Some publications even think it is worth writing up CIO job moves. And of course, CIOs are obsessed with research reports and blogs by other CIOs Do CIOs read this stuff?

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Alert

CIO - Essential role

We've finally got rid of the shackles of being an extension to the Finance Dept. where "the guy who was pretty good with spreadsheets" landed a job as the I.T. Dept. Let's not let stupid decisions be made, even with the advent of cloud (which is really nothing more than a distributed data centre!), by another bean counter who sees the pound/dollar as the most important factor.

A CIO is someone that needs technical as well as financial vision and this is where many fail. I have worked my way up through the ranks of I.T. from humble field service engineer to consultant wearing many hats and I always go by the rule, "A man's gotta know his limitations" - I believe someone once said that.

We need CIO's that have an understanding not both hands on the purse strings.

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Re: CIO - Essential role

"A man's gotta know his limitations" - I believe that would be Clint Eastwood :D

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Re: CIO - Essential role

"the advent of cloud (which is really nothing more than a distributed data centre!)" is spot-on. I'm not really sure why everyone is knocking themselves out to put their collective data "in the cloud", there are a lot more options that can be kept in-house. Just because it's the "NEWEST BEST THING EVER!!!" doesn't mean it's all that good.

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Is it important for a CIO to understand IT on more than a superficial level?

Is it important for a CIO to understand IT on more than a superficial level?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Is it important for a CIO to understand IT on more than a superficial level?

Is it important for a CIO to understand anything?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re: Is it important for a CIO to understand IT on more than a superficial level?

Or indeed has anyone ever observed a CIO understanding anything? I've engaged with all three of our past CIOs and the customer's current CIO and I was surprised that they could operate Powerpoint.

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Re: Is it important for a CIO to understand IT on more than a superficial level?

Should be. Should understand much more tha PowerPoint

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Re: Is it important for a CIO to understand IT on more than a superficial level?

Should be. Should understand much more tha PowerPoint

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CIO: needed, if good?

OK, I'm going to play it the Jeopardy way: I give "answers" -more like opinions actually- to be discussed, you guys work out the questions.

Any structure with more than a dozen of users needs someone to filter and translate the demands coming from the base users and the demands coming from higher management -often changing, almost always contradictory- into something that can be acted upon in a consistant manner by the techies, without them having to constantly oppose pulling and pushing in random directions.

The CIO role can not in any case be taken over by, say, a CFO. The "I" is the most essential part of the job. You could actually call it "mediating IT Intern" and put it far down the food chain, it would be less efficient but still massively better than having the role played by a non-IT person. The important part here is that someone is needed to translate jibberish into real tech terms; where the solution might take 10 minutes to implement, it can take hours to figure out what the user want (phrased in gutter-media gibberish) or what higher management wants (phrased in MBA gibberish).

A CFO as "acting CIO" would just manage to badly translate Sun-level gibberish into MBA-level gibberish, losing all the real intention in the process while not making it more understandable at all.

It implies that the CIO must understand both sides: the tech, and the lusers/PHBs. He cannot be expected to be fully competent at the iron level, and must let his techies work out the best solution for the job. As always, micro-management won't work, and will actually be counter-productive, ensuring that 1) the best solutions are NOT chosen and 2) the people in charge of day-to-day operation will not feel involved and will let things go to shit at the first hint of a problem.

In summary, bad CIO < no CIO < good CIO.

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Re: CIO: needed, if good?

That effect at the end of your post is really cool. Quite frankly I was getting bored of the discussion, and to see the text fading out into nothingness nicely paralleled my interest level.

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Anonymous Coward

tl;dr.

Didn't even finish the article. It turned out to be about some minor irrelevant willy-waving power-struggle / propaganda-campaign between C??-level assholes. Who cares? We're only kowtowing to their agenda by even thinking about it. Recommend that all ElReg readers save their precious braincells for something important, like killing them with beer, rather than contemplating these particular navels.

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Re: tl;dr.

Aren't we the party pooper.

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Coat

Sidenote

I note the total absence of the proper denomination ("commentard") in the original article, the author cowardly resorting to neutral terms such as "you lot" instead. That won't do, Mr Cullen. Your use of sweetener terms such as "knowledgeable" and "well-informed" doesn't fool anyone!

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"Common" sense

A CIO needs to have more sense than to open an email virus that not only goes straight to a porn site but also causes everyone in their address book to get a copy of the same email. Ah the good old days of Outrage... Outhouse... Lookout... oh yeah, Outlook. Yeah, "see our new web page", that was precious coming from the CIO... fucking git.

Back on track, a practically minded CIO is a wondrous thing to have and it only gets better when he has the appropriate budget but can work magic with whatever he does have.

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Speaking as a guy who has worn the CIO hat ...

... it's a superfluous position, designed to shift the blame for bad IT purchasing decisions to a sacrificial C*. In my mind, it's the wrong way to go about it. Manglement & IT are two completely different fields.

I personally think that largish corporations should have a Management Track, and a Technical Track, when it comes to advancement to more senior positions. Management takes care of management, and techs take care of the increasingly more complex technical side. And yes, they truly are parallel, again, I'm talking largish corporations.

Along with being a CIO at a small handful of largish corporations, I've also been the Sr. Member of the Technical Staff for a Fortune 50, and for a couple other Fortune 500s ... I know of what I speak^H[1] type.

Sadly, I don't expect traditional management to grok this within my lifetime.

[1] Gotta get used to that ...

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Re: Speaking as a guy who has worn the CIO hat ...

<blockquote>Sadly, I don't expect traditional management to grok this within my lifetime. ..... jake Posted Saturday 25th February 2012 04:10 GMT</blockquote>

In the Age of Cloud and Concerns that Pimp and Pump and Dump Virtual Space Security Systems on Vulnerable Ancient Intelligence Operating Systems and you expect traditional management to be involved at all? Oh please, jake, you cannot be serious.

Get with the ProgramMING or find yourself led remotely and sublimely into Futures you have not imagined and inputted. Grokking is simple par for irregular and unconventional CIO who invariably always remain Relatively Invisible and Practically Anonymous for Pretty Good Privacy Reasons.

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Re: Re: Speaking as a guy who has worn the CIO hat ...

"you expect traditional management to be involved at all?"

Uh ... no. That was my point. I avoid "traditional manglement" at all costs.

My systems are my systems. Most are air-gapped. I am the CEO, the CFO, the CIO, the CTO, and the dude who steps in to muck out the stalls as needed when any given field-hand takes his chosen two days off every week. I also walk dawgs daily.

Global thinking is all very well and good, but it doesn't help keep local communities functional. For values of "local" that include forums that are globally accessible ... As ElReg is finding out with the new "user forums" ;-)

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Mushroom

Re: Speaking as a guy who has worn the CIO hat ...

thorazine ?

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@john mullee (was: Re: Speaking as a guy who has worn the CIO hat ...)

Thorazine might be an option for you. Do you often respond to eight month old posts without enough context to let the rest of the planet grok what point you are trying to make, much less what post you are replying to?

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All right, I'll play your silly game

Any CIO of mediocre grade or better must have well honed troubleshooting skills and an ability to think logically.

Given that these skills are always needed but in extremely short supply in management circles (being mostly arts majors), and are most applicable to the numbers environment of finance:

Should the role of CFO disappear cease to exist in 5 years time as their department functions are moved under the purview of the CIO?

Book-cooking-as-a-service (to make a loss look like a profit so management and sales get their bonuses) anyone?

Tune in next week when we explore why the Director of Marketing should be in charge of procurement and manufacturing.

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What's a CIO?

The post is required, and must contain letters

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Re: What's a CIO?

The feigned ignorance and implied superiority of "what's a . . . ?" decidedly lose their punch these days, as it really implies you are so profoundly stupid and lazy that you can't type it into a search engine.

For example: http://www.lmgtfy.com/?q=cio

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TRT
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Re: What's a CIO?

Oh come on, be fair. I had to google it myself as I'd forgotten what it was! I've not heard that job title since the early 90s. HR has managed to mangle things so much in the last 20 years anyway...

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Re: Re: What's a CIO?

No feigned ignorance nor superiority intended. The original article was about doing a vox pop about CIOs. I just wanted to register the fact that I don't know what one is.

I agree that I could look it up on the web (I still haven't) - but that wouldn't give me any valid insight or view about CIOs - just evidence that I know what the letters stand for.

I read el Reg every day, I don't work in IT except to the extent that, because I have my own very small company, I do it all myself - from specifying and buying equipment, to setting up networks and fixing(or not) most of my own problems. Maybe I'm a CIO and just didn't know it.

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CFOs: The role of the CIO will cease to exist in 5 years’ time

You want questions?

- Why do you think the CIO role was created and Information Services responsibility taken away from CFOs?

- What has changed in the past 20 years to make a return to the old days a good idea now?

- What percentage of accountant-run companies grow and prosper? How well do you understand the business as opposed to the finance function?

- How do you measure ROI? Did you try outsourcing? Have you gone back to insourcing for critical functions yet?

- PFI: Discuss, from a supplier & buyer POV.

- (Corollary) Cloud Computing: Discuss, from a supplier & buyer POV.

Bitter, moi?

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Seriously...?

"...Let's pick an unambitious topic to start with, to wit The death of the CIO..."

Pretty ambitious for me. I've no idea what CIO stands for.

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Happy

It's CFO's on the scrapheap for me...

The whole idea behind outsourcing is that you should keep your 'core competencies' in-house and that anything which does not add differentiation can be outsourced. Isn't is strange that it's always the CFO that seems to make that call when the finance function is probably the least differentiated of all business activities?

I'm saying this because I happen to use an accountancy firm which provides the full range of back office services (payroll, invoice processing, etc.) and which will maintain your management accounts for you 'in the cloud', so that you have an up-to-date view of the company financials whenever and wherever you need them. They also have a number of very experienced partners with different specialisms who can be brought in to provide board level advice when required.

My company isn't big enough to make full use of all these services at the moment - but when you can buy in all of these capabilities from outside, I'm left wondering why any SME can ever justify having a full time CFO.

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IT Angle

Who?

Perhaps I have been in the wrong organisations but I have never encountered a CIO. IT Director or Head of IT Services perhaps. If I was asked what does a Chief Information Officer (CIO) do I would be hard pushed to respond and would tend towards corporate spoke person or marketing honcho.

Therefore to my mind they are already dead in the water....:-(

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Coat

Bottom up

Whether in a small company or a large one , we got to focus on how people get jobs.

More often than not , big cheeses are not coming from the really informed and knowledgeable workers that built the department. It's often a free loader that happens to know someone and is well versed in bullshitting people in thinking they know something .

A really good CIO , imho, would be someone from the rank and file that's proved to be a person that has shown he's an excellent co worker, someone opened to discussion and ideas and that can synthesise the information , make sense of it and be able to communicate with people that have no knowledge whatsoever of technical issues.

You need that guy to also knows about finance ? get him in school .

It's always a shame to see people who built a department , giving it their best , see a total stranger come in and take over their work . Recognising the value of the work that was done and rewarding people on fair terms by promoting them seems the way to go. But it aint the way it's going most the time.

Up to now , i never met a CIO that spent nights in the data center

Position might be needed by the corporate structure , but who they put in that position should be uniquely based on knowledge of the data center work , it's people , traditions and especially someone with experience in the department that knows what's going on .

Otherwise .. what's a CIO good for ? just another freetard with a BMW ?

We can pass on those.The real CIO's we need are people that made their way from the bottom up and earned their stripes.The death of the CIO job is not for tomorrow .. what we need to do is fill those jobs with the people that know something .

FTB

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Unhappy

CIOs, another kind of PHB or a eunich ?

Who has power to spend money in current largeish organisations ? (say > 5000 staff)

HR ? not really

IT: nope

Senior PHBs ? often

Finance sharks ? rarely

Which area is mostly permissions withholder ?

HR: yes

IT: over-ridden at drop of a vendors lunch or this weeks feature article; no

PHBs: definitely

Finance : Yes !

Where do most PHBs come from? (using 3 big IT firms as examples)

sales weasels.

So the big corporations have management consisting of those with big influence and generally lowest knowledge of the organisation,,who dont manage people, more used to manipulating them, usually with a weak grasp of return on investments, and a raging ego.

Conclusion: whatever is going on, the CIO title was always a scapegoat. Any control they have is white-anted by finance, who dont carry responsibility for destroying productive areas, overridden by sales weasels at all levels and made futiile by the bastard offspring of finance, control freaks ffrom change control, quality and related wastes of oxygen.

Summary: The CIO never really existed as specifiied, and will probably vanish as a concept.

I suggest this is a cultural rather than a business inspired development, as the ruins of western thought seem to think that the only activities humans do can be scripted in a spreadsheet or data model

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Anonymous Coward

I was CIO .... Bitch

If we assume for the purposes of commentard-ry that the cloud is going to take over the world the the CFO types are correct. Here's why. The role of a CIO is to mediate between the tech types and the finance types. Ideally having a foot in each camp. Knowing when to go to bat for more funding and just as importantly, knowing when the tech dudes are talking shite. Now if you are buying a serive then this C level mediation isn't necessary.

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Boffin

Wots a CIO?

I've been in a whole swag of industries where I use IT as a means to complete my particular task. I've never actually met a CIO though I've heard rumours they exist.

I've worked at the top level of Government including developing Whole Of Government ICT policy and strategy.

My best guess is that a CIO is perhaps responsible for ICT strategy in support for the corporate business plan. I understand that more often than not the CIO is subordinate to the CFO.

In an uber-well run organisation the CIO would be a vital part of the development and maintenance of the business plan. This includes anticipating organisational demands as well as anticipating technology changes and doing the SWOT analysis on existing and new Technologies.

I seriously doubt the CFO can do this. They are just accountants after all and have some minor skills at spreadsheets (I emphasise minor).

ICT is a reasonably fast changing environment and if an organisation doesn't keep up they risk being outpaced by competitors or, more usually, being fleeced by incumbent suppliers.

I can readily envision the big account managers of some suppliers working to knock out any effective CIOs and get the risk averse CFO to be the only decision maker in the organisation.

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Anonymous Coward

Questions for a prospective CIO...

1. What techniques do you use to identify those, in and out of the company, whom you can most easily bully?

2. As above, but sexual harassment.

3. A great decider: What do you expect the future to see as your greatest contribution to the destruction of this company?

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Unhappy

Ask CTOs the same questions

You may find that CFOs think CIOs will become redundant, but you need to do the same survey with a bunch of CTOs to guage the other end of the spectrum. Then we can focus the debate on the bit in the middle.

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Mushroom

My big question

Can a non-accountant without even A-level maths run an accounts department well?

Can someone who is liable to faint at the sight or smell of blood, or any body part, run an operating theatre?

Can someone who has never seen a gun be a successful general?

If you answered anything but a resounding "yes" to all of the preceding questions, why do you think that someone who does not have an expert knowledge of IT is capable of running an IT department?

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Stop

Re: My big question

(a) Yes .. You don't need to know how to do the math, you only need to know how to manage people who can.

(b) No .. Difficult to do any management when you're unconscious.

(c) Yes .. Sun Tzu for starters. I could go on ..

All other things being equal, a technically knowledgeable CIO would be a good thing. Trouble is the generally aren't equal. Most technical 'experts' fail at almost every other necessary management skill. Given the choice, I'll take the technically illiterate but good manager over the socially inept guru every time.

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Re: Re: My big question

Disagree on (a), Nicho. A manager who can't do math(s) can't run a budget.

Disagree on (b), too. My Vet's office manager manages the OR quite nicely, without actually being present during surgery (the vet, or visiting specialist, is in charge of any given procedure, so it's no big deal). The sight of her own blood is enough to get her to faint. She's bloody useless in an emergency (dog HBC, for example), but she takes care of all the other day-to-day stuff quite nicely. The Vet says she's a godsend.

Very much agree on (c) :-)

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CIO: Now I see that was my *real* job...

I've recently retired from a long and rewarding career in which my naturally insatiable curiosity served me well in that I always wanted to learn more...including IT functions since computers changed the game for my profession & I also find people fascinating. In retrospect, a perfect fit for my line of work and once promoted I supervised operations staff, worked as a training officer, training manager, records, policy team, client services manager, liaison to other agencies and local government, and finally manager of operations.

There's more: unofficial staff advocate as "mediator" between staff and IT, financial, and HR departments. It was fun to assist in never-ending equipment testing & surveys, and to be exposed to telecommunications puzzles and solutions. Our radio and systems engineers were (are) the best. If you are INTERESTED and sincere in wanting to learn and then contribute, people will share their knowledge wholeheartedly. Now I understand (since we had no CIO - we had a wonderful IT manager) through the previous comments that my devotion to our entire organization & not just units to which I belonged actually placed me as an unrecognized 'acting' CIO. Who knew???

I was a fine arts major in college - uninterested in math - in my 5th year of schooling something called 'the new math' came in and confused the fudge out of all of us kids. My father was an engineer and instilled in us to keep improving...to find the simple elegant solution...to read for knowledge & pleasure...and every dilemma a call for more research. Now that I am retired I am looking forward to learning how to code and get educated in more technical aspects. Not that I know where to start. That's my first step - finding out where that is! I don't have a plan to monetize anything, I simply wish to find out. I believe I was the perfect 'stealth' CIO. Now? Just enjoying myself, the Reg, and the incredible perceptions of the contributors.

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Premise of the survey biased

Nice idea for some populist journalism but I think this starter for 10 is too flawed. I agree with Michael Hudson and others. The survey could probably have obtained the same answers by asking CFOs: would you like to grow your empire and be paid more by taking on the responsibilities of the CIO?

Bear in mind that when I was a new recruit the CFO generally *did* have the responsibility for information and were the defacto CTO. Over the year these responsibilities have been largely taken away from the CFO because as often as not CFOs only saw IT in accounting terms. Important as this is, the benefit of IT to the wider business was often not recognized or not recognized systematically. The costs of IT are all to clear while the benefits all too intangible. In my experience the CFO, as leader of the no sales department, is not always equipped to make these judgments.

Anyway its good for the CEO to have more 'C's underneath (TO and IO alongside FO, OO, MO, etc.) as it make divide and conquer a little bit easier. I don't expect the role to go any more than any other role is likely to go in response to internal corporate intrigue.

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Proposed question

1. Does any CIO acually need to give a monkey's puff what the grunts think?

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Trollface

CFOs

I'm sure you'd get a similar answer from CFOs if you asked them about anything (anyone).

They seem to think that the company should outsource everything. Of course at that point, the company just becomes bean-counters and a little bit of "sub-contractor management" which could also come under the CFO I suppose...

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Chief watsits

I've never come across the CIO role, though I can see how it might be meaningful and important, depending on the business. CFO I can see a use for, but he/she should be kept well away from operational matters.

And what the hell is a COO (Chief Operating Officer)?

I've seen a steady rise in roles beginning with "Chief" and usually it is just role inflation, or the company having to bend over for certain people who know where the bodies are buried.

When I were a lad there was only one 'Chief' and that was the Chief Engineer, who was a god-like being. There was and could be only one, and he operated at the highest company level. And it was always he because women hadn't yet been invented.

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Anonymous Coward

Last time I heard of a CFO doing a CIO's job it ended with a sprinkler system being installed in the new server room because it was less expensive than halon. Granted that CFO was a moron, but even a moron CIO would have known better.

And yes, the sprinklers did get set off about six months down the road, at which time the CFO was told to go elsewhere for employment.

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