Why IT Is Different

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos
Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

Part of being a good CEO is knowing what to manage and what to delegate. Many CEOs delegate tasks like managing manufacturing or logistics because they’re highly technical and, in most cases, outside of the CEO’s area of expertise. Historically, information technology has been viewed the same way. This view is inappropriate for modern businesses, though.

Technical Technology

To be clear, technology management has some technical aspects to it– much like logistics. Without an astute CIO, IT projects won’t be finished on-time, the network will crash, and orders from the website won’t get processed. However, that’s really the limit of technology management. Much of what is under a typical CIO’s purview is general business management.

The CRM Challenge

The implementation of CRM software is a good example of the problem of treating IT as a self-contained unit. Many companies have perfect CRM installations from an IT perspective: the application is properly installed and available to all users with good performance. However, those installations are failures.

The problem with CRM installations in these companies isn’t IT-related. It’s due to all of the other business factors. The software works, but the organization doesn’t. By shunting responsibility to the CIO without involving the entire company, these companies fail to retrain their sales forces and customer services teams both to have the right conversations and capture the right data. Once the data gets captured, the marketing teams also need to be trained on how to use it to better market the company’s offerings. CRM is a software program, but it’s also a business project.

IT Governance

Most IT governance issues are business issues. This does not mean that the CIO is not qualified to make them or to influence a company’s thinking on them. It means, however, that the CIO shouldn’t be working on them in a vacuum. CIOs should be integrated with business units to devise the right solutions for them. At the same time, larger business-wide issues are the purview of the entire C-suite, including the CEO. A tight integration between the CIO and the rest of the executive team leads to IT initiatives that aren’t just technically successful but that also drive business results forward.