IT Leadership Needs Restructuring

Login & PasswordIan Cox, a U.K. consultant and former CIO, is proposing in his new book, “Disrupt IT – a radical transformation of IT” that the time has come for IT leadership roles to undergo a seismic shift from a hardware mindset to that of a software approach to management.

In an interview with, Cox says, “The current model, ways of working, structures, etc, of the IT department are out-of-date, remnants of the mainframe, PC and client-server ages. Technology has changed massively since those days; its role and use within the organization has changed, knowledge and awareness of non-IT staff is so much better and the offerings of vendors far more mature and comprehensive.”

What Cox is saying is CIOs should no longer have staffs with a focus on outdated technical skills. “The focus on a new set of core competencies means that many of the more technical roles that the IT function has acquired over the last 20-30 years in areas such as building, maintaining, and supporting infrastructure and applications are no longer core activities and should therefore be outsourced to partners unless they are a source of competitive advantage or differentiation,” he says.

In a statement that might make some CIOs uncomfortable, Cox argues most aren’t suited to their roles simply because they haven’t adapted to new technology and the digital age of IT. “The role of the organization’s technology leader has to change to keep in line with this shift. Organizations need a different type of CIO, one that can play a leading role in the digital age. And that needs different skills, experience and qualities to those CIOs needed in the past.

“CIOs that can develop these skills and make the transition from technology and service provider to technology and service broker will not just have a more stable future, they are likely to become a key figure in the digital transformation of their organizations,” Cox says.

Compensation for CIOs also needs to be restructured, too, Cox advocates. “The digital business needs its CIO to focus on using technology to generate value, creating new revenue streams and driving growth. Their performance should therefore be measured in terms of the value they create and their contribution to revenue and other business metrics in addition to the cost and performance of the technology and services they are managing on behalf of the business,” he explains in the book.

Doug Henschen, executive editor of Information Week, in a commentary piece for, backs up Cox’s thinking. “You say you’re an old-school business intelligence or data-warehousing professional? Well, like many technology professionals, you’re likely to be treading water when it comes to salaries and total compensation,” he writes.

He cites a salary survey by Information Week that says, “The 410 staff- and 336 managerial-level intelligence/analytics and data integration/warehousing professionals in our survey are challenged and in demand. So why is compensation barely inching up?”

Henschen suggests in the survey that the problem may be the recent trend of dedicated analytics. In effect, its recent adoption may be hindered by CIOs who don’t understand its role in IT. “The use of advanced analytics is old hat within many industries, but the technology and techniques are being embraced more broadly. Retailers, financial services, telecommunications companies, and healthcare organizations are all highly likely to have dedicated analytics teams, according to research by SAS. But with the exception of financial services, where analytics methods are most entrenched, more than half of the teams in retail, telecom, and healthcare have been established within the last five years,” he says.

Keith Griffin
Keith Griffin is an award-winning business writer and editor with more than 30 years experience as a journalist. His work has been published in The Boston Globe, Medical Economist, Good Housekeeping,, the Hartford Courant, CT Law Tribune and numerous other regional publications.