Don''t expect to be taken seriously as a strategist if you can't get your operational house in order. That's one of the points made by Louie Ehrlich, president of Chevron Information Technology Co. and CIO of Chevron Corp., in his post on the CIO Dashboard blog.
In it, he describes his appointment as CIO of Chevron's Global Downstream business in 2004, a position where he felt ready to be a "business strategist" CIO. One problem: Not all of the business stakeholders felt the same way. Writes Ehrlich:
The hard lesson I learned as a CIO looking to advance my role and serve as a business strategist is that one must recognize that there is likely to be a capability/expectation gap, and that this gap doesn't go away by itself. It's something that we as CIOs have to close.
I know from talking to other CIOs that Ehrlich wasn't the first-and won't be the last-to encounter this gap between IT capabilities and business expectations. Three factors create this gap, he writes:
Ehlrich's post made me remember a 2008 strategy+business article that profiled several CIOs it referred to as "practical visionaries." The article stuck in my mind because of a discussion I had with a coworker who strongly objected to that label. "I don't see what's so visionary about sitting in on some line-of-business meetings," he sputtered after reading my take on the article.
I, on the other hand, thought practical visionary was a pretty good description for CIOs who succeed by building on a foundation of solid operational performance to help craft effective business strategies for their companies. Without that foundation, a CIO's strategic aspirations will crumble.
It's also worth noting that not all organizations may want or need a strategic CIO.