CIOs Can Provide Business Value By Offering HR Help

Ann All
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Seven Leadership Skills CIOs Need to Drive Results

CIOs must have the right leadership skills in place to deliver on today's heightened expectations.

In the past I've suggested the CIO should cultivate a close working relationship with his or her CFO. Sadly, however, a recent Gartner survey showed many CFOs take a dim view of technology executives. The overarching theme of the survey is a feeling that CIOs cannot deliver on business needs.


As IT looks to the future, just about everyone can agree its role will change. No one seems sure, however, of exactly what will become its primary responsibility. With more business units buying their own technology, IT will have to focus more on integration so the disparate parts function as a reasonably cohesive whole, say some observers.


With IT's shifting landscape and surveys like Gartner's poll of CFOs, it seems clear CIOs need to identify some key business areas where IT can produce some clear and high-profile improvements. In a recent piece, MIT's Jeanne Ross suggests human resources is just such an area, largely because HR has been slow to adopt software that can be used to improve employee recruitment, onboarding, performance management, training and other key HR functions. The article quotes Ross:

If HR doesn't step up [to this challenge], we will find that the great IT leaders are going to say, "Man, we've got to do more around the effective use of technology and staff development." The great leader will emerge as someone who understands this very tight relationship between using technology and information well, and making people more effective.

IT can help streamline many of HR's administrative functions, Ross points out. More broadly, she cites the example of companies like Procter & Gamble that have created shared services and process organizations headed by the CIO. These organizations give staff a single point for all of their support needs, including HR, and help make clear connections between business and technology transformation projects.


A UK article written by Adventis Consulting partner Alan Erskine stresses the importance of IT, HR and operations working together to create an integrated human capital management approach. He offers four specific suggestions for creating what he calls "good foundations for information and reporting":

  • Ensure integrated applications for payroll, HR, resource management, and time and attendance are in place.
  • Create consistent rules for workforce planning and allocation for the entire organization to use.
  • Provide single-source reporting with consolidated resource and payroll data.
  • Provide support for what-if analysis on workforce size and utilization.


Erskine also promotes more of a partnership angle than does the piece. His piece is titled "Help out on Human Capital Management," while uses a headline with an adversarial tone, "Why It's Time for the CIO to Take on HR." Maybe I'm being too much of a Pollyanna, but I think CIOs will find it's easier to win friends and influence people in business units if they present themselves as a partner rather than a potential threat.

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