On The CIO’s Top Challenges

There are many challenges that CIO's are facing in today's cloudy, jargony, swirling maelstrom of Information Technology. But isn't there something missing in the conversation that totally supersedes these challenges?

There is an article up over at The Enterprise CIO Forum site from a few weeks ago talking about the challenges that CIO’s are facing in today’s cloudy, jargony, swirling maelstrom of Information Technology.

To be sure, the list is well thought out and well reasoned. The top 10 are pretty much what you’d expect. Subject areas like Cloud, Big Data, ROI, Security and Innovation make the list. Frankly there’s little to quibble over.

Except…

To be perfectly honest, I don’t think any of those Top 10 CIO Challenges are particularly important in the grand scheme of things. Sure, we need to know about all the cloudy things and all the latest buzz-worthy phrases like ‘Big Data’ but isn’t there something missing that totally supersedes this list? Isn’t there one thing that so eclipses every item on this list that its absence is itself an indicator of how immensely important it is?

Shouldn’t the CIO… understand the business? Isn’t his primary, overriding challenge to comprehend the business problems he is trying to solve? Shouldn’t his conversations be in terms of people and services and process and organization and revenue and how technology can address issues that arise in those areas? Isn’t the very first thing he needs to understand be the business he is trying to improve with his technology?

Look, technology comes and goes. Products and tools and frameworks and vendors are ephemeral. There are fads and trends and cycles. The Top 10 CIO Challenges list from 10 years ago is entirely different. You know what isn’t different? The CIO’s need to first and foremost understand what it is he is trying to solve, for whom, and why. When he gets that mostly right, the question of ‘with what’ (i.e. the tech, tooling, vendor) follows naturally and much more easily.

I’m not a CIO. Far be it from me to question actual CIO’s on what they believe their challenges are and the mission they are undertaking. No wait. I take that back. I’m absolutely questioning actual CIO’s on what they believe their challenges are and the mission they are undertaking.

Before anyone composes a list of technology hurdles for the CIO to overcome, my not so humble offering is that anything one could put on that list is entirely superseded by the primacy of being business-centric. If you don’t get that part right, the list of challenges might as well be apple, cat, dog, spaghetti. In other words, it is entirely irrelevant.