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The CIO Paradox

Battling The Contradictions of IT Leadership

By Martha Heller
12-minute read
Audio available
The CIO Paradox: Battling The Contradictions of IT Leadership by Martha Heller

In our current technological age, even low-tech businesses are more dependent on IT than most companies were 30 years ago. Yet this fact is still not reflected in how many organizations function or the relevance given to their Chief Information Officer, or CIO. The CIO Paradox tackles some of the complex situations that the modern head of IT will encounter.

  • CIOs looking for inspiration on how to improve their work
  • Aspiring CIOs or business leaders
  • Anyone curious about the many functions of the IT department

Martha Heller is president of Heller Search Associates, a recruiting firm that focuses on senior-level IT leaders. She is a regular columnist for CIO magazine and is also on the judging panel for the publication's prestigious CIO 100 Awards.

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The CIO Paradox

Battling The Contradictions of IT Leadership

By Martha Heller
  • Read in 12 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 7 key ideas
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The CIO Paradox: Battling The Contradictions of IT Leadership by Martha Heller
Synopsis

In our current technological age, even low-tech businesses are more dependent on IT than most companies were 30 years ago. Yet this fact is still not reflected in how many organizations function or the relevance given to their Chief Information Officer, or CIO. The CIO Paradox tackles some of the complex situations that the modern head of IT will encounter.

Key idea 1 of 7

Focus on simplicity and instill an innovative mindset in your IT organization.

The job of the Chief Information Officer is paradoxical. CIOs must be cost-efficient and stick to proven, safe solutions. At the same time, they must invest in innovation and take risks. So how do you balance these contradictory demands?

One way to pursue both goals is to simplify the IT organization and make it easier for employees to understand.

IT is costly, complex and, for most companies, absolutely vital. To the average employee, however, it often seems not only high-cost but inconvenient and out of touch with the business itself. That’s not how it has to be, though. Because IT at it’s best is both cost-efficient and great at solving problems.

Geir Ramleth, the CIO of the global engineering giant Bechtel Group, found that employees often regard IT as the department responsible for setting up barriers that prevent work from getting done. So, when Ramleth joined Bechtel, he went about simplifying and streamlining the role his IT department played.

Ramleth took the 33 different IT helpdesks Bechtel had around the world and turned them into one operation with a universal ticketing system and single phone number, available 24/7. They distributed this number to employees around the world, and, from call one, they increased the number of problems solved from just 20 percent to over 65 percent. At the same time, Ramleth’s strategy brought costs down by over 30 percent.

Another way to encourage innovation is to give your team the time and space they need to focus on innovating.

Tom Farrah, the CIO of Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc., found an effective way to do this. Farrah outsourced the routine, day-to-day operations of his IT department so that his internal team could spend their time focusing on innovation. With the mundane tasks of handling helpdesk tickets and network support out of the way, his team could focus on more innovative tracks like mobility and business intelligence.

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