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Are you the next CIO?

By shubhendu.parth

Added 27th January 2010

Seven steps to the top seat...

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Peep into an anthill and you will realise what seamless order and perfection mean. Our tiny insect cousins have engineered a complex organisational structure which, though hierarchal, is highly efficient. At the very apex, sits the queen, the head of all the domicile ants, and does little than preen and procreate. Below the empress, there are scores and scores of worker ants which toil endlessly to ensure that her majesty remains unperturbed and at ease.

Were we to project this organisational structure on to a standard enterprise, more so on to the IT function of a typical enterprise, it will be fairly evident that the CIO is the queen of the IT-hill, waited upon by the rest of the managers and professionals. The IT head often has little to do with IT these days; he frets and fumes over things like RoI, people management, business issues, et al.

For the sake of illustration, take the case of Mr O who is the CIO of a large pharmaceutical company and whose lifestyle is the envy of many. More often than not, he is touring the country, or the globe, for work and conferences. He is courted by vendors, analysts, journalists and others who are all ears for every word that escapes his mouth. Even the CEO of the company pays attention whenever Mr O comes up with a new proposal or strategy. Mr O operates out of a spacious cabin, and moves in hallowed circles receiving awards and recognition with amazing regularity.

So when does Mr O work? Well honestly, he does not; he merely gets the work done. Over the years, he has outsourced much of the infrastructure management to external vendors. Now all he has is a small and well-knit team of managers and IT professionals who handle the day-to-day functioning of the IT infrastructure and the data centre. The anthill is not much different from the IT-hill, is it?

IT Next survey
While one cannot be sure if the worker ant within the anthill aspires to be the queen, but IT managers certainly desire to become CIOs. This was evident when we conducted a survey to ascertain what it takes to be a CIO. Our survey drew responses from nearly 250 IT managers around the countryrepresenting a wide array of verticals, cities and profiles.

To say that the response was overwhelming will be an understatement. Nearly 200 IT managers had completed the survey within two days, with more responses trickling in over the next few days. The dozen odd questions in the survey were designed to capture the essentials of what it takes to be a CIO. Once, the verdict was received from the IT managers end, the same questions were posed to CIOs and external consultants, and they were asked to share their views.

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