Career is Over ?



It was 1999, and that is not very long ago. I was counseling a young IT
student on career options. Very confidently I was telling him that fancy
hardware and software companies were not the only destination for him. In fact,
I stressed that, he will grow faster in user organizations-which are IT savvy,
and will embrace IT to such an extent that will become their lifeline. That was
the time that CIO was emerging.

That was years back. I do not know what happened to that young boy. But two
things happened to me, which literally shook me, as if out of some deep slumber.
I was in Bangalore some days back to be in an expert panel that was selecting
the "CIO of the Year". To my utter dismay, I discovered that most of
our aspiring CIOs were the same old IT professionals-very technical, and still
not thinking the way a CEO thinks. Their nomination papers were bulky, reminding
me of some hardworking student’s research thesis. They seemed to be still too
deeply entrenched in technology. I was wondering how long will the CIO take to
be as smart and precise as a CEO, and how much will he able to influence the
board.

IBRAHIM
AHMAD
We are now seeing an increasing role of people like CFO in IT decisions. If IT management is being out-sourced, if even dashboard reports are going to be generated by external consultants, then surely CIO’s role is in danger

My answer did not take long to come. Later in the evening, I met a very
interesting person who sells MIS packages, which is now fashionably called the
dashboard. He told me that besides selling the entire MIS/EIS package to
enterprises, he is also selling them dashboard services. Which means he will
install the MIS/EIS system at the client’s site free of charge, but generate
all the MIS reports the management wants, and charge for that. My friend
informed me that while in some of the advanced countries this concept is already
selling, he has been able to manage a contract in India too.

Outsourcing MIS report generation could perhaps be the last nail in the
coffin. I am sure the decision of organizations like Bharti, Bank of India,
Dabur, Ballarpur Industries, Whirlpool, and many more, to completely outsource
their IT management, must be based on merits.  Whatever one might say, the
fact is that with this outsourcing, the CIO would have had to let go a lot of
decision making on technologies, products, and people. By no stretch of
imagination would outsourcing be called a step towards a higher and bigger role
for the CIO in the organization. The fact is that we are now seeing an
increasing role of people like CFO in IT decisions. If IT management is being
out-sourced, if even dashboard reports are going to be generated by external
consultants, then surely CIO’s role is in danger.

There are about 125 people in the country with the CIO designation, and about
1,500 people with the same job profile but different designation. And it is
mostly in organizations where these people presently work, that a lot of IT is
being outsourced. The trend is only beginning to gain momentum. But it is not a
great thing for the CIO if the big boss of his company thinks that outsiders
will do a better job. Future growth for him will surely not be as easy.

It is therefore time that the CIOs (whatever their designation be) put on
their thinking caps again. When value add is the name of the game, they will
have to clearly demonstrate that they bring value to the organization. This
value add will have to be in terms of coming out with mantras for saving costs,
reducing time cycles, better customer retention, higher revenue actualization,
and finally greater competitive edge. Obviously, they will have to learn to get
work out of teams that are not working directly under him. 

Finally, I hope the young boy whom I had given advice in 1999, is not reading
this piece and cursing me. I am sure he must be laughing at those who became
CIOs.

The author is Editor of Dataquest IBRAHIM
AHMAD

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