Home > IT Management, Management > The Role of the CIO and IT (in a matrixed org)

The Role of the CIO and IT (in a matrixed org)

Came across a couple of very interesting blog postings about matrixed organizations, the place of IT in such organizations, and the CIO’s role in the organization.

Firstly, Life in a Matrix: How to lead and succeed in complex companies is a unique blog discussing the organizational challenges that we often face from a structural viewpoint. As most IT folks experience, the matrixed organization is par for the course and is discussed in Role of IT in a matrix. The poster and the commentators make good points. It’s frequently debated and as I am going through (and have gone through) a similar transformation, I have developed some pretty strong views on this.

First, the starting point for whether IT should be purely line function or to the CEO depends on what kind of organization it is and what industry it belongs. Second, the answer to this inquiry should lead to some answers on it’s mission and by extension the CIO’s vision for the dept. I believe the CIO person needs to have a pretty strong view of this in order to properly perform it’s functional duties to the organization.

In my view, I appreciate the views and arguments for a strong functional line position (see Centricity Systems blog article: The Role of the CIO and IT who makes some very sensible points). The arguments for this make alot of sense in large(r), enterprise organizations that span many sub-organizations. This type of organizational structure (should) lends itself to more standardization, common processes, single versions of the truth (i.e. data standards and management reporting), efficiencies in IT and Business infrastructures. And these qualities are what large enterprise organizations require to achieve efficient economies of scale from their capital expenditures.

Despite these good points however, my view diverges slightly from semantics in that IT organizations – the majority of them – are service organizations primarily and only operational secondarily. And by definition a service function like IT, “services” the business customers (i.e. the P&L guy which is the CEO guy although I would be ok with COO but not CFO). In this organizational place, the CIO/IT department has the best possible opportunity to influence throughout the organization, rather than be narrowly focused in efficiencies and cost-cutting rather than driving growth and enabling business opportunities which is the sexier side of business. There are consequences of this, not least of which is that the CIO role is IMHO personal dependent – what does the CEO or Management Board think of the CIO role?

Having said that, there’s no question that the CIO person, whether it is in a strong functional organization or a matrixed organization, is required to be highly proficient in general management, financial management, and technical management. There are not many roles that require such breadth and depth of understanding to be effective – hence the joke that CIO means Career Is Over.

Categories: IT Management, Management
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  1. May 15, 2009 at 2:33 PM

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