The New IT Functions CIOs Need to Embrace

    If CIOs want to “get IT right,” they need to add two new capabilities to the IT division, according to a veteran director and trustee.

    James I. Cash, Jr., is the James E. Robison professor and senior associate dean, emeritus, of Harvard Business School. As you might guess from his title, Cash frequently has served on boards of directors or trustees over the past 30 years.

    In a recent Harvard Business Review post, Cash writes that there are four “highly interdependent categories on contributions the CIO and IT function should make.” He recommends that CIOs start two new groups within IT that will be dedicated to achieving these goals: the Distributed Innovation Group (DIG) and the Enterprise Integration Group (EIG).

    He describes DIG as a center of expertise for supporting innovation. DIG would help identify how emerging technologies and collaboration methods and technologies can be used in new ways. It would also be responsible for analysis across the enterprise, he adds.

    DIG’s first priority is to put technology to work growing the business. Not improving productivity. Not improving efficiency. But actually asking, “What are the potential uses of this technology that will guarantee we stay in business?” he writes.

    It’s not hard to see how data-focused this group would need to be and, indeed, his examples relate to data. Specifically, he mentions Progressive Insurance’s use of predictive modeling to grow from the eleventh largest personal auto insurance carrier to the third largest in only 10 years.

    He also points to the use of data from embedded sensors as a tool for generating after-sale, value-added services.

    The second group is the Enterprise Integration Group, which would be responsible for enterprise architecture, with an eye toward “simplifying and integrating methods, process and program management.”

    EIG would also work to ensure that corporate governance is embedded in applications and process design, Cash writes.

    This isn’t just simplifying for simplicity’s sake: This group would ensure that savings don’t just disappear, but are reallocated to new growth and innovation projects, he adds.

    Cash offers great advice on shifting IT from a support to a strategic role, and you really should read the whole piece for the details. You will need to register to read the post, but it’s free with basic user information.

    I particularly like the idea that IT could stop being a cost center and become a role model for integration, efficiency and innovation.

    As one commenter observed:

    “I would even argue that the suggested Enterprise Integration Group should not be limited to IT. Too many large organizations suffer from non-integration at multiple levels.”

    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson is a freelance writer specializing in technology and business issues, including integration, health care IT, cloud and Big Data.

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