The CIO's Role is Changing

Aug 21, 2006

Lionel Carrasco

At the heart of the best IT plan is a team of managers who knows their enterprise’s inner workings. In a growing number of businesses a new kind of leader is emerging who understands not just his company’s information needs but also its business process requirements: the chief process and information officer (CPIO).

Before you say “C’mon, not again” to yet another C-level title, let me explain.

Traditionally, IT carries out initiatives from a purely technological perspective. The recent addition of business process management (BPM) to the mix allows better alignment of IT with business objectives. This integration pays dividends in creating a new structure that crosses all business units and geographies and includes not just a set of declarations, but new processes, new governance mechanisms, even cultural evolution.

It also goes a long way to breaking down departmental and geographical silos and enables disparate groups to be strong links in the complete value chain.

In this model, IT is no longer reactive but is proactive and requires a different response from its leadership. IT cannot merely follow corporate demands and requests, nor can it be relegated to an infrastructure provider role.

Instead, the clear impact IT has on intangible business aspects such as processes, risks, information, and knowledge, requires IT have a strategic role in senior management, any business process change and governance.

IT projects and operations often involve serious risks, require significant investments and impact the company on a deep level. This financial and business impact cannot be relegated to a reactive role on IT’s part. Because of this, IT’s leader is no longer a technological observer but must facilitate the integration between business process change and technology.

IT’s leader must serve as a crucial internal advisor to offer technology, processes and information alternatives for the strategies senior management defines for the business. Along these lines, the position of chief information officer (CIO) may well evolve into the position of chief process and information officer (CPIO); hence the new title for what is, essentially, a new job.

Profiling the CPIO

So, what will a CPIO do? The CPIO will lead a functional management transformation process where IT loses its reactive support function and replaces it with a strategic role as a key part of business processes design and mobilization.

This challenging role includes a workable balance between technological knowledge, technology projects administration, business projects knowledge, and especially, a systemic reasoning capability.

The latter is crucial, requiring the capacity to analyze a complete picture of the business model—not just the technology—and to support and articulate the entire range of optimal solutions.

However, the CPIO’s role does not stop there, but also includes negotiating and selling ideas at the top levels of the company. The CPIO orchestrates projects involving a variety of process specialists across a variety of functions that are working together to change global business processes. The CPIO must also have a direct, open and constant communication channel with the CEO and senior management.

If you are going to inaugurate such a chieftain, plan on establishing a set of guidelines or rules:

  • Ensure that your IT leadership participates in a process administration module.
  • Establish a standardized and integrated methodology for IT to provide services to the organization.
  • Make decisions and allocate responsibilities according to established IT governance.
  • Standardize on corporate technologies.
  • Overall, the CPIO will lead a functional management transformation process where IT loses its reactive support function, and replaces it with a strategic role as a key part of business processes design and mobilization. With a CPIO at the helm or coming up the ranks your company will finally get the benefits of an IT strategy that is a true driver of business success.

    Lionel Carrasco is CTO of Neoris, a global IT consultancy, systems integrator, custom application developer and leader in emergent technologies. Carrasco has more than 20 years experience in IT consulting in the banking, insurance, transportation, retail, manufacturing and oil industries.

    Miguel Galván Espinosa, Director, Neoris, also contributed to this article.


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