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by Marianne Broadbent and Ellen S. Kitzis

Harvard Business School Press © 2005, 340 pages, $35.00 (ISBN 1-59139-577-1).

Setting the Agenda and Delivering Results

According to corporate advisers Marianne Broadbent and Ellen Kitzis, chief information officers (CIOs) today are at a crossroads in the business environment. In one direction lies a lingering dissatisfaction with information technology (IT) that is left over from the bust of the Internet bubble, the belief that IT is irrelevant to competitive advantage, and concern over IT jobs being outsourced to faraway countries. In the other direction lies the view of IT as a source of business innovation; a foundation for products and services; and a way for companies to comply with the timeliness, completeness and accuracy of corporate information that are required by the current regulatory environment. In The New CIO Leader, the authors describe how CIOs can most effectively follow this second path, win credibility and earn a higher role in their organizations.

According to the authors, the role of the new CIO leader requires changes to the traditional CIO skills, approach and priorities. Although these changes might not appear to be revolutionary, they point out that CIOs who do not make them will have difficulty in their executive experience.

To determine how CIOs can consistently deliver results that matter to the executive team, the authors have performed years of research and surveys that have taught them much about the changing demands on CIOs. In The New CIO Leader, they explain the results of their studies and describe how CIOs can face the challenge of becoming an irreplaceable part of a company’s success and what new skills, priorities and actions they need to take to reach the next level.

Three Categories of Enterprises

The authors write that all enterprises tend to fall into one of three categories at any given time. They call the three categories of enterprises fighting for survival, maintaining competitiveness, and breaking away.

In the first category, companies struggle to find ways to cut costs while going through layoffs and scaling back capital investments and long-term projects, including IT development. Maintaining-competitiveness companies tend to mirror the economy: In tough times they are cautious about new business projects; in better times, new projects gradually increase. Breaking-away enterprises tend to aggressively increase their business investments — and IT budgets — each year, and seek IT-enabled business innovation to gain competitive advantage. The authors write, “Enterprises that are fighting for survival need CIO leadership every bit as much as enterprises that are breaking away.”

Ten Critical Points of Focus

Throughout The New CIO Leader, the authors present 10 critical points of focus that differentiate the new, more effective CIO leaders from their struggling counterparts. They explain that the first and second points in their list provide the firm foundation that is required for the rest to be effective. These are:

1. New CIO leaders must lead, not just manage. Leadership and management are not the same; they are complementary. To lead, a CIO needs a personal vision and a point of view about how information and IT can make his or her enterprise more effective.

2. New CIO leaders must know their enterprise inside and out, as thoroughly as, if not better than, their executive colleagues do. A CIO needs to know his or her industry and competitive environment and be able to engage key decision makers and stakeholders on their terms.

Based on these points, the rest of the principles described in detail throughout The New CIO Leader develop the role of the CIO in any organization by laying down the clear actions a CIO must take while becoming more proactive. These critical points of focus are:

3. Create a vision for how IT will build your organization’s success.

4. Shape and inform expectations for an IT-enabled enterprise.

5. Create clear and appropriate IT governance.

6. Weave business and IT strategy together.

7. Build a new information services (IS) organization — one that is leaner and more focused than its more traditional predecessor.

8. Develop and nurture a high-performing team in your IS organization.

9. Manage the new enterprise and IT risks.

10. Communicate IS performance in business-relevant language.

The authors write that, although these 10 points of focus are not the only issues with which a CIO must cope, they are the most critical issues facing CIOs today. New CIOs must be ready to build credibility by working on each of them. ~

Why We Like This Book

While providing the theoretical basis and practical application sides of the CIO equation, The New CIO Leader remains readable because it captures real-world IT stories and turns them into a path for CIOs to follow. By remaining down-to-earth in their presentation of facts and concepts, the authors offer winning guidance to all CIOs. ~

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