IT as Instigator Can Help Drive BPM

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Way back in 2007 I wrote a post about the CIO role, calling it the most thankless job in the enterprise. One of the sources I cited was a CIOUpdate article written by an EDS fellow that mentioned successful CIOs should fill many roles, including chief investigative officer, chief international officer, chief innovation officer, chief inoculation officer and chief irritation officer (my favorite, described as a "strategic irritant" who respects, yet challenges, the status quo and strikes "a balance between what's technically possible and what's economically feasible.")


Writing on ComputerWeekly.com's CIO to Go blog, Alastair Behenna adds yet another role, chief instigation officer.


Many effective CIOs have a history of project management in their backgrounds, Behenna notes. Truly effective CIOs will also know how to instigate projects, to "sow the seeds of good ideas into the context of the overarching business strategy," not just how to manage them once they are already under way.


Projects don't have to be big to make an impact, writes Behenna, offering the examples of making it possible for receptionists to change objectionable ring tones or helping folks in finance create a new way to handle expense claims that doesn't involve lots of hours tinkering with a spreadsheet.


Behenna doesn't mention business process management by name in his post. But much of what he is talking about can certainly fall under the BPM umbrella.


Helping the folks responsible for expense claims will certainly win some goodwill for IT, as Behenna writes, and help create a can-do attitude among IT staff. But it can also "expose deeper seated issues that have been kept hidden in the IT and business attic; the mad uncle no-one wants to acknowledge but who casts a long shadow."


A sharp CIO will recognize the opportunity to undertake a more ambitious project to retool and streamline the entire expense-claim process, from submission to payment. Voila, a small change can lead to a series of much more significant changes.


Behenna makes the same point I made in my earlier post, "Is CIO the Right Person to Champion Process Improvement?" that IT's high-level, cross-functional view of the business makes it well-suited to instigate, architect and deliver business process change.