I read an article in the Wall St Journal today all about the role of chief financial officers (CFO) in increasing investments in IT to maintain a competitive edge.
The piece refers to a Colorado company, CH2M Hill, which is cutting back on expenses like corporate events and bonuses for employees, yet it plans to boost its $100 million-a-year IT budget by upto 20% this year. In part, the money will go to fund new systems that will make it easier for workers to use a variety of mobile devices on the job.
“We’re very concerned about the economy and trying to take some measures to cut costs,” says Mike Lucki, CH2M’s chief financial officer. “But this is an investment that we need to make to stay competitive. If you don’t do it, you’re not in the game.”
The thought struck me that when I read that quote that how often do you ever hear a CFO talking about getting a competitive edge? Shouldn’t that be the language of the CEO? And, aspirationally, what the CIO should be saying?
There’s nothing in this Wall St Journal piece about the role of the CIO. That’s not a criticism of the piece at all, simply the fact that CIOs seem to be anonymous in the corporate culture. As the article suggests, ‘CFOs are often the executives calling the shots on tech purchases. According to research firm Gartner, for instance, 44% of IT departments report to CFOs.’ The article seems to suggest that there are IT departments – but no IT leaders. (Or at least, in this case, none that the Wall St Journal deemed noteworthy enough to speak with)
Has the CIO become the Chief Invisible Officer? Perhaps, to take a line from Mike Lucki’s quote, it’s time CIOs made a strategic investment (in their visibility) to stay competitive, because, to nick another line, “If you don’t do it, you’re not in the game.”
Or has the corporate balance of power so shifted in current times that the corporate officer that pays the piper is so clearly now calling the tune?
Is it time that CIOs started to shout more from the rooftops about their value?