Why It’s Easier Than Ever for Australian CIOs to Be More Strategic

By Peter Wilson

In the early days of Australian IT, CIOs who wanted to deliver strategic value to their organisations came up against a brick wall. IT had a very specific function in those days and it was mostly operational, not strategic, in nature.

Today, it’s easier than ever for CIOs to achieve results that drastically transform their companies for the better. Here are the top three reasons CIOs are able to add more strategic value in 2012 than their predecessors could.

1. Greater expectations and increased CIO empowerment

It wasn’t too long ago that many companies didn’t even have a CIO. The Management Information Systems department often reported directly to the CFO, a talented financial executive who, unfortunately, didn’t have the foggiest idea as to how computers might be used to build competitive advantage. Today, the CIO is treated with respect and often attends board meetings. The executive suite and the board have, more often than not, grown up with computers and understand their potential. Plus, they’ve seen companies thrive through smart use of IT, and they are willing to vest CIOs with the authority and the resources to deliver strategic value. This fundamental shift in perspective from “IT as necessary evil” to “IT as growth enabler” makes it much easier for today’s CIOs to define a strategic vision and chase after it.

2. Agile development processes and off-the-shelf software

Ages ago, CIO responsibilities were largely curtailed to keeping existing systems running. Even when ground was broken on new IT initiatives, custom software projects often took years to implement. By the time the software was done, the business had changed and the software was often no longer aligned with the strategic objectives of the business. Today, software projects can be defined and delivered at a fraction of the price, as well as order of magnitudes faster, than in prior decades. Agile development methodologies, outsourced development and robust, off-the-shelf software solutions that can be used as a starting point have made it much easier to create a strategic solution that drives positive business results. “It can’t be done by then” is no longer part of the CIO’s lexicon, and the ability to get great things done quickly makes it possible to deliver on the promise of IT’s strategic potential.

3. A seismic shift in human-computer interaction paradigms

It’s hard to build something strategic in a static environment, but when the world is changing at a rapid pace, opportunities abound to create strategic IT assets and use IT to drive enhanced revenues, profitability and competitive differentiation. With the Internet still presenting incredible opportunities for strategic IT initiatives, and social, mobile and cloud convergence transforming the way business is done, a CIO that can’t find strategic IT projects to be done might well be accused of IT malpractice. Couple those changes with rapid globalisation and evolved approaches to supply chain management and customer service, and, make no mistake, there is plenty of opportunity for CIOs to build strategic valuefor their employers.

Switching gears: transitioning from tactical mode into strategy mode

Are you strategic enough in your approach to IT? We’ve helped our clients seize the opportunity to conceptualise andimplement visionary IT projects. Seismic changes in technology and its role in everyday life have created opportunities for even the most tactical CIO to transform the IT department into an organisational superpower that strategically enables business success.

The key takeaway here is that CIOs have no good excuse not to deliver strategic value to their organisations. Australian IT is no longer just part of the value chain. For many forward-thinking companies, it is the value chain.

Peter Wilson is Datacom’s CEO of Systems for Australia and Asia. He helps ensure Datacom offers and fulfils technology solutions globally.

Peter strives to drive the success of the business across locations by strategically directing Datacom’s future. His vision ensures every Datacom location is equipped with the world-class knowledge and capabilities necessary to help enterprises transform their IT department.

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