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Sat 19 Jan 2008 04:00 AM

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Seven up

Todd McGregor outlines seven important regional IT trends and the key areas which are set to shape the role of the CIO in 2008.

This year will see the firming up of several trends that will shape the CIO role in the future, the foremost being the splitting of the role itself.

Some CIOs will capitalise on their visibility across organisational silos along with their understanding of technology's potential to grow into the role of a business change agent, but most will remain focused on running the business of IT.

The change agent CIO is continually increasing credibility and influence with CEO and LOB execs as a source of high-value perspective on the business, and has the skills to shepherd change. This CIO has built an IT organisation with senior staff who know their mission, continuously improve their operations, and have developed the skills to anticipate and prepare for business needs. Looking ahead to 2008, this CIO will:

1. Strengthen joint IT-business planning through use of model-based planning - Creating linked business and IT plans is a struggle unless there is a common language and framework for planning. Budgets, performance metrics, and governance are tied together by use of these models.

2. Restructure organisations to foster alignment - Reversing the trend of centralising IT to gain economies of scale, change agent CIOs will structure their organisations to get as close to the business as possible by dispersing staff into business areas to gain knowledge and act as technology advisors.

3. Foster strategic planning and architecture as key competencies - For many CIOs, developing IT strategic plans is a "sometime" thing with dubious impact. Change agent CIOs, realising that shaping business perception requires an up-to-date strategy, will ensure that strategic plan development, update, and review is an on-going process.

4. Strengthen their roles on the executive team and with the board of directors - CIOs generally have excellent enterprise-wide perspective, with visibility across line-of-business and functional silos. Change agent CIOs parlay this perspective, which complements the perspectives of the CEO and CFO, to identify business model-based opportunities for customer intimacy, operational excellence, and innovation.

General manager CIOs will focus on operational excellence and concentrate their efforts on boosting the efficiency and operational excellence of IT. Business execs and staff are IT's customers, and the general manager CIO creates an organisation focused on supplying what these customers request and are able to fund. Looking ahead, these CIOs will:

5. Structure their organisations to drive standardisation -Standardisation of technology and applications is the key to driving down IT costs and standardisation of processes is the key to driving up quality and consistency. As cost and quality are key metrics for these CIOs, they will continue to centralise their organisations and construct skills and processes around centres of excellence in order to drive standardisation and achieve higher quality and lower cost.

6. Improve transparency, measurement, and monitoring to uncover efficiencies - General manager CIOs will increasingly manage their organisations "by the numbers". In 2008, more of these CIOs will create performance feedback loops from application, project, and infrastructure efforts, thereby increasing the effectiveness of operational planning and execution.

7. Assume management of other corporate "shared" services - A growing number of general manager CIOs will assume management of non-IT functions. Recognised for their expertise at running shared service IT organisations, general manager CIOs will adopt other shared-service organisations that might include anything from facilities management to customer service.

Todd McGregor is managing director of Forrester Middle East

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