CEO/CIO misalignment is a perennial old saw argument dragged out every year as pundits look at different surveys and try to find cause for fear, uncertainty and doubt. The idea is that CEOs want one thing – business performance and CIOs are delivering another – technical performance. The apparent differences between the two are expected to demonstrate that the CIO is out of touch with the CEO as they are heads down on technology rather than concentrating on business value.
That debate will heat up again as the Conference Board released their CEO Priorities list for 2011.
Last week the Conference Board results were released in the Wall Street Journal and on The Conference Board web site. They show that CEO’s are concentrating on growth across most major industries, which makes sense given the change in economic conditions. Beyond growth, there are common issues that have different priorities across industries based more on the industry context than anything else. The list of CEO priorities, The Conference Board published in the Wall Street Journal appears below.
The analysis of the results, provided by Joe Light of the WSJ, points out that
‘CEOs tend to balance talent, efficiency and innovation as their main strategies to drive growth.’
People, processes and technology continue to form the triangle for strategic and operational improvement. That triangle is backed by CIOs and IT. Despite what people want to say, that alignment comes from recognizing the role of IT in the enterprise.
Consider the following list of IT strategies ranked by CIOs from the 2011 Gartner Executive Programs CIO Survey. The survey of more than 2,000 CIOs show that infrastructure and growth are the top two concerns.
On the surface, these priorities look like the CIOs have their head stuck in the technical sand. Concentrations on infrastructure, IT cost, IT consolidation, etc., all can be interpreted as the CIO staying in the back office/basement and not meeting the needs of the CEO.
That is a limited and biased view based on the idea that CIOs cannot be aligned with their CEO.
I will offer another biased view; one is biased toward recognizing the realities of the scope of CEO and CIO concerns.
When we talk with CIOs about these priorities, an interesting point emerges. Infrastructure priorities are driven by both the change in technology (cloud, virtualization, etc.) but also the need to grow.
“Setting up the infrastructure for growth” was a common phrase heard among leading CIOs who recognize that growth in the next decade requires a unique blend of talent, efficiency and innovation.
Growth in 2011 and beyond is not simply a function of spending and expansion. Actually it’s a blend of two things:
Investing in emerging and adjacent markets which will grow fast, but not have a material impact on earnings or share price compared to mature markets.
Achieving operational efficiencies in core markets, which make up the bulk of company revenues but those revenues, may be stable or declining.
It makes perfect sense or the CIO to play a role in both, have both on their agenda, and look to achieve both through changes in infrastructure. Without a capable infrastructure that delivers efficiency, capacity and new capability, the enterprise loses its ability to scale in mature markets and reach emerging growth opportunities.
Savvy CEOs recognize this and they recognize that this is a requirement they place on the CIOs to do list – after all the CEO cannot and should not do everything.
The modern enterprise is complex and there are many pieces required to achieve any strategy, much less a growth strategy. So rather than comparing the to-do lists of executives think about how the executive team comes together, what each brings to the table and how they will use their resources for enterprise success.
When you take that view, the FUD and fog lifts and you can see how a strong executive team shares the same goals, but also knows what they need to bring to the party.
More about those who insist that priority lists match in the next post.