How many CIOs does it take to change a light bulb? None, Zero, Zilch. It's a facilities issue.
But wait; As CIO, I was (once) also in charge of facilities! (We got a case of those 100 watters in back, Joe?).
All kidding aside, it will be a major milestone for IT when the infrastructure component (network, storage, etc) can be regarded as just another component of the overall "facilities" and managed with HVAC, power and the like. It's a tight relationship as it is now. The organizational implications, and the implication to the role of CIO, is pretty intense, but I'll leave that to a future research paper.
What made me think of that joke was a conversation I had with a close friend (who shall remain anonymous). Or at least I think he is close - twice already I hired him away from a firm, only to eventually leave him for a promotional opportunity. So it goes.
Our conversation was about CIOs, specifically it's plurality. Most Fortune 100 companies, over the past 5 years, have significantly increased their inventory of CIOs with all of them reporting to an "uber CIO". In some cases it's a few dozen people, sometimes it's hundreds. Often, it's to add some stature to the position (more letters than "VP", or equal to "SVP").
Short of SIM. there are no real regulating bodies for CIOs (neither does SIM, but its close). There is no common definition, and it's not intuitively obvious what a CIO's role is, sometimes. At many software companies, the CIO is in charge of software product development, in addition to the normal duties.
As a result, the title "CIO" has been bandied about, and to a large extent, watered down. Forget the fact that a CIO for a F100 is a totally different job than that for a startup.
Historically, the definition of CIO has been (my perception): "the most senior officer in the organization responsible for Information Technology and Systems. Has fiduciary responsible for all of an organizations IT efforts". The CIO may report to a member of the board of directors, certainly reports to another senior business executive (not IT related), or directly to the owner (in private companies). So, by definition, if you report to a CIO, you are not a CIO!
Nonetheless, modern American corporations comprise multiple businesses, each reporting up financially as a separate line of business, hence the need for multiple "CIOs". That, coupled with a message to the prospective CIO that "this is big", a message to his business partner that "this CIO is yours", and a message to staff that "This CIO is not a figurehead"...well we have the basis of CIO inflation.
What this hides is a fundamental discontinuity in career paths, job titles, and organizational planning. What was wrong with the original definition for CIOs? If the line of business has a separate CFO, CMO, CSO, COO, and CEO...than the case for a separate CIO appears to be valid; but then why would that CIO report to another CIO?
I think we need a different model for modern American business, if the position of CIO continues to mean anything in the future... and as a CIO that sees the need for the current trend of uber-CIOs, I certainly don't see an alternative to the status quo until a clear business consensus develops, or an industry organization takes a position on this and publicizes and encourages it. In the meantime, the implications concern me. Any thoughts? Am I off base with this analysis?
Jack Santos, CIO Executive Strategist