Все дело в информации, а не в технологиях21 октября 2011
According to a recent report by Booz & Co, the consultancy, the average age of chief executives is now about 51. That means that many grew up in the PC era and have witnessed the impact of technology on almost every part of business.
“Chief executives do need to know more about IT – but not the detail,” says Mark Raskino, a research fellow at Gartner, the IT consultancy.
They need better understanding of how technology could improve the firm, but they can delegate a lot of the specifics.
"For example, they need to understand how mobility, social networking or dynamic business process management could change the effectiveness of parts of their business models."
Unfortunately, the consultancy’s latest survey of chief executives suggests that even this level of understanding is often lacking.
Mr Raskino points out that technology is one of the fastest moving and most disruptive forces in modern business.
“A chief executive with a good grasp of how the major technology trends effects their industry, will at least be able to ensure that the company can play ‘fast follower’ effectively."
“Chief executives who don’t think about technology, make it appear unimportant to their management teams, who may then marginalise it. This can leave the organisation vulnerable to attack by new business models.”
The dangers are particularly acute when it comes to the adoption of technology tools such as business intelligence (BI) applications and executive dashboards, which are designed to provide leaders with greater insight into their company’s operations.
“Many organisations mistakenly leave the championing of BI to the IT department,” says Alan Bowling, Chairman of the UK & Ireland SAP User Group, and a former chief information officer himself.
IT should only be in charge of supporting the processes he argues, adding that board sponsorship is crucial, as is having as many senior “stakeholders” involved as possible.
He believes the chief executive and finance director should certainly be involved, as well as stakeholders from each business unit, such as HR, procurement and IT.
“Not having a say in what is behind the high-level figures can be disastrous and lead to assumptions that may be totally inappropriate for the business strategy,” he says.
Business intelligence can extract information that was previously held in silos and provide it in the detail needed for informed decision-making.
At the highest level, this could be ‘key performance indicators’ to show how the business is faring, or summaries of upward or downward trends that might require swift, decisive action.
At the same time, with an appropriate, flexible [executive] dashboard in place for the various BI users, those high-level decisions can cascade down to the rest of the organisation so that the whole business can be united behind overarching goals,” he says.
Mr Bowling – whose career includes stints as IT director and then CIO at Northern Foods, which was a provider of chilled meals to UK supermarkets – says executives should plan their strategy and define metrics to ensure they get maximum value from BI.
“Otherwise,” he warns, “they’ll have nothing to show for it and won’t be able to demonstrate its value."
When done properly, Mr Bowling believes BI can arm executives with critical information to help their organisations become more flexible, allowing them to respond faster to changing markets and giving them an edge over the competition.
Bob Weiler, executive-vice president for global business units at Oracle, the software group, agrees. “BI, which has its roots in the simplest of reports, has evolved rapidly in the past decade,” he says.
“Business leaders have come to rely on the personalised dashboards that BI provides for high-level perspective as well as ‘deep dives’ into the numbers and data of the business lines behind the dashboard.”
Today’s applications go far beyond early financial data-focused tools.
Nowadays, says Mr Weiler, they are, “built to meet the needs of executives in specific industries, whether the head of governance, risk, and compliance in a financial services firm, a senior manager in the clinical research group at a leading pharmaceutical company ... or a senior executive at a utility seeking [understanding of] the data from smart meter and smart grid deployments.”
Cloud-based services are also having a profound effect on the dynamics of business.
Cloud computing enables executives to tap into IT resources from third-party suppliers on a pay-as-you-go basis, freeing CIOs to think more strategically about business objectives and growth opportunities.
A report published in July by Spencer Stuart, the executive recruitment company, says: “As it changes the landscape of business, cloud computing is also changing certain leadership roles in organisations, with no position more affected than that of the chief information officer.”
That view is echoed by Nelson Fonseca, chief operating officer of Terremark Worldwide, a subsidiary of Verizon Communications, the US telecommunications group.
“The CIO has changed over the past several years from an IT position to a business leader position,” he says.
Cloud computing allows the CIO to focus more on the productivity of the applications the company will need to be successful, as opposed to worrying about the infrastructure to support those applications.
Meanwhile, chief executives and finance directors are becoming more involved in IT decision-making as they see opportunities to cut IT infrastructure costs and make technology into a competitive advantage.
“You’re definitely seeing business heads weigh in a lot more on IT than ever before,” says Steve McWhirter, senior vice-president of enterprise sales for Asia-Pacific for Salesforce.com, the cloud computing company.
They are tired of software complexity, long implementations, maintenance and upgrade projects that add no value to the company’s bottom line.
The business is saying: ‘We can remove these headaches, be more agile, and create greater shareholder value.’ With cloud computing, CIOs have the freedom to meet the pace of innovation for their business without compromising on enterprise class requirements such as privacy, security and performance.
Do today’s chief information officers need to be an IT professionals, or can they delegate to a chief technology or infrastructure officer?
Mr Raskino says: “The CIO does not require a computing technical background and today about a third of CIOs take other routes to the job.”
Increasingly, he says, the role is about managing the information and processing assets of the business.
Perhaps that is why a growing number of organisations, particularly in the financial services sector, are appointing CIOs with operational rather than technology experience.