Kudos to fellow blogger Heidi Gigler, whose recent article (“Chief Acceleration Officer”) strongly resonated with me because it is what CIOs were originally supposed to be. When the CIO title came into mainstream use a quarter century ago, it described a non-IT business executive that was assigned to oversee information technology because it was becoming so critical to the success or failure of more and more businesses.
The first CIOs were not executives who grew up in IT and climbed to its top position. They were people who understood how business processes worked and how information flowed between functions and departments to make them run effectively. As information flow became electronic, executives were appointed to oversee the “data processing” or later “management information systems” departments. These were formerly led by directors who often reported to a VP of Administration who then reported to a CFO. The position of CIO was created by CEOs who realized that information would be so important to their organization’s future that they needed a person reporting directly to them who knew the business and would make sure these investments in “management information systems” were impacting the business.
In my last few posts, I talked about converging business processes. That involves how a business process changes as a result of a technology investment and how the old and new ways of doing things come together and become one as a result. That’s not to say the old way goes away completely and the new way is adopted overnight; instead, as with telecommunication network routes, things converge over a period of time as everyone is updated about the new way to “route” information (which is the same reason we use the term “convergence” to describe how an IP router learns about new pathways to get information from point A to point B).
Just like it takes times for routers to “converge” (to learn new ways to get data between endpoints), it takes time for people to learn and adopt new business processes. People who have done things a certain way for a long time start the “convergence” process with denial (this initiative will fail and go away, so why adopt it?). Then they do some tempered bargaining (OK, it didn’t go away, so I have to show enough compliance to not get fired, but I am not happy). Finally, they reach some form of acceptance (OK, everyone is using this now and I kinda get it, so I will adopt it too). The biggest mistake I see when companies deploy new technology is their failure to recognize these phases of technology adoption.
The speed of change in today’s business marketplace astounds me. We used to do 10-year “long-range” plans, then we switched to five-year plans. Today we may do a three-year plan, but we know it is mostly about the next 12 months, as things are bound to change. I used to criticize the ready, shoot, aim approach to running a business, but now I am not so sure people have much of a choice. Being “ready” to shoot in any direction is important, but if you spend all your time aiming, you may get mauled by your grizzly competition before you even get a shot off.
Chief Acceleration Officer (as opposed to CIO) makes it very clear what the job is about. Companies I work for have gone from wanting things in a week to a day to wanting it in an hour or within minutes. I don’t see that trend changing, especially with the current generation that takes speed and responsiveness for granted. The next generation of individuals will become impatient as a result of simple millisecond delays in an application—and that is why converged networking will be so focused on delay and latency in the coming years.