IT Professionals and Invasion of the CIxOs

If you have anything to do with Information Technology, you are probably feeling something major has shifted. IT Professionals as you and me, across the world are facing a new breed of challenges that are far beyond the technical wizardry we are used to tackle. It does not really matter so much if you are a guru in Server Consolidation, Hybrid Cloud, Application Development, Storage Management, Database or Systems. Sure, they'll be happy to hire you, but the sphere of influence for you as an IT Professional has been widened and you will be left behind unless you expand your reach as well.

The role that has been affected the most is the CIO. It has actually been extinguished. Enter the age of the CIxO.

Susan was accustomed to confronting new challenges. She was one of the first employees in the IT department of BIO Ventures Inc., back in 1990. Susan was a fresh System Administrator when she was hired by Tom, the CEO, and she had to do it all from day one.

Susan would barge in the office, when it was still cold and dark, as the day was just starting to unfold. She would skim the recent stats of her systems, take care of all the issues and quickly shift to building the company's information systems. Susan was taking care of hardware and software purchases, putting together the hardware, setting the networks, installing and configuring Windows, Solaris, Linux,  Databases and assisting the Development team.

As time passed Susan was helping out in matters that involved more IT realms and became the CIO. The tech stuff got more complex each year, and recently it was about virtual platforms, cloud hosting and such, but there was something else happening, outside Susan's realm, which was fundamentally affecting Susan's positioning in the company.

It was strange. Her role was so important for BIO Venture's success, and strangely enough she felt threatened, with no actual contender to bring her down. Susan felt as if she became transparent during company board meetings. Derek the CMO, was always a bit remote, and would always resist long direct eye contact with Susan. Go figure, and Derek, being a marketing expert was supposed to be a friendly guy...

But recently, Derek was even more reserved, while dealing with Susan. It took some time for Susan to realize what was happening, but it got very clear last Monday, when Tom, the CEO was reviewing the recent marketing campaign, led by Derek's team.

Tom was digging out the reasons for the failure of the campaign, and was throwing more and more questions at Derek, but during all this examination, he was also peeking at Susan, as if he was disappointed at Susan as well.

What was happening here?

Was Tom expecting Susan to help Derek, and How? Susan was the IT Manager, and indeed she had learned a lot about what makes Venture BIO's customers happy and she had some great ideas on how to expand into new markets, using Social Media tools she would develop, and other means.

But Susan was not the CMO, Derek was. Or was he not?

Is Tom expecting that Susan would become the assistant director of marketing?

And to make things even more fuzzy, Susan noticed a similar feeling in regards to the Finance Department. Was Tom expecting Susan becomes also assistant director of Finance? What was going on? Susan was always making sure that her department was building systems that serve Marketing, Finance, Logistics and the other company departments. But now Tom was expecting for more than that, much more.

Here is my take on Susan's case:

Businesses did not have IT systems around until few decades ago. Initially Information systems were used to take care of...information. Calculate, Gather, Analyze, Report, to produce real goods or actions to be done in the "real world". However in the last decade the information became the product.

If in the past the CIO was working in the glasshouse, while Marketing, Finance, Logistics and even the CEO, did not know what the CIO was talking about. Nowadays, the CIO is on another Planet. The terms and solutions the CIO deals with today are even harder to interpret. Things are moving so quickly in the IT industry, that even CIOs have hard time capturing all the opportunities and risks involved in using them.

It has become impossible for the management team to relate and harness IT Solutions, not to mention social media, which hooks customers directly to the essence of businesses, and amplifies everything, wins and failures as well.

Therefore CIOs and IT professionals like Susan, you and me have to step in. We have to diligently expand our involvement and sometimes work 90% of our time as CMO's, CFO's, CEO's, whatever is needed to close the gap our board has. We have to turn from CIO to CIxO. We have to let the little "x" be part of us, be it Marketing, Finance, Logistics, Human Resource, whatever needs filling in. As soon as the mission is accomplished and we have one "x" department ducks in a row, we should help out the other "x"s.

Will this position be considered pretentious? Will you get opposition trying to bring you back to your IT Only position? Maybe, and if so, no harm done, you already love your IT Systems anyway - right? It is my belief that in most cases the door will be wide open for you to step in and assist, actually, most chances, people are already disappointed you haven't done so already.

So, do you want to be a CIxO? What "x" are you looking to help it?

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IT Professionals and Invasion of the CIxOs