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SOA & WOA: Article

SOA World: Should You Fire Your CIO?

Change is often the best remedy

One of the things covered in the recent Burton report was an instance where a new CIO was needed to get SOA going. In essence, the culture needed to change in order to accommodate the changes required to get a SOA rolling, and thus they changed out their CIO to change the culture.

If you think about that, it makes perfect sense. The existing people and processes are typically the largest hindrance to building a SOA, thus you need to address those issues before SOA will be successful. Typically, changing people and processes means changing leadership, thus changing the CIO is often the first logical step toward accomplishing those goals.

The reality is that CIOs are very different animals from company to company. In many instances, I've found they do not have technical backgrounds, but come instead from the finance or operations side of the house. I've even found instances where CIO meant "career is over" and it was a holding position for executives who were about to retire or be outplaced. However, I've also found many who are masters around the business processes within their enterprise and they know their way around the politics, which are typically a part of any large company.

However, in many organizations the role of CIO has resolved itself as the person who keeps things running, not the agent of change. Indeed, when I speak with CIOs they typically tell me about uptime statistics and productivity metrics, and almost never how systemic improvements in the architecture will add value to the core business. If you look at the way their performance is measured and compensated, you can understand why they have this kind of behavior.

Personally, I've been offered the role of CIO many times over the last 20 years within large organizations. I balked at the opportunities when I found out that the roles came with no real power, thus no real ability to drive change. As one executive put it: "Dave, all you need to do is keep your head down for 20 years." I passed.

When considering SOA, the role of the CIO is even more important. Someone needs to focus on the business processes and the culture, and good CIOs should be masters at those tasks. Indeed, their ability to do that leads to SOA success, according to Burton. However, most CIOs either can't or won't step up and make those changes in order to clear the way for SOA, thus SOA dies on the vine.

If you're in this state, perhaps it's time to look for a new CIO: an executive that can be an agent of change and put a plan in place to improve the business going forward. Moreover, someone who can change the culture from a "won't work," or "not in my department," to a "can do," and "will do." Thus they provide a clear path for change, or clear the way for fundamental architectural changes that will be painful and disruptive, but will drive much more value from the IT infrastructure. There are proven metrics and methods around the value this change can drive.

The trouble comes with pulling the trigger on a change. You must have leaders within the company who are innovative about systemic business improvements, and make the tough calls in terms of who will drive that change.

CIOs play a critical role when considering any change in IT, especially holistic changes required when doing SOA. If they can't drive change, then perhaps you should change your CIO. Or, perhaps they are not empowered, not just for SOA, but for the future health of your IT infrastructure. Either way, change is often the best remedy.

More Stories By David Linthicum

David Linthicum is the Chief Cloud Strategy Officer at Deloitte Consulting, and was just named the #1 cloud influencer via a recent major report by Apollo Research. He is a cloud computing thought leader, executive, consultant, author, and speaker. He has been a CTO five times for both public and private companies, and a CEO two times in the last 25 years.

Few individuals are true giants of cloud computing, but David's achievements, reputation, and stellar leadership has earned him a lofty position within the industry. It's not just that he is a top thought leader in the cloud computing universe, but he is often the visionary that the wider media invites to offer its readers, listeners and viewers a peek inside the technology that is reshaping businesses every day.

With more than 13 books on computing, more than 5,000 published articles, more than 500 conference presentations and numerous appearances on radio and TV programs, he has spent the last 20 years leading, showing, and teaching businesses how to use resources more productively and innovate constantly. He has expanded the vision of both startups and established corporations as to what is possible and achievable.

David is a Gigaom research analyst and writes prolifically for InfoWorld as a cloud computing blogger. He also is a contributor to “IEEE Cloud Computing,” Tech Target’s SearchCloud and SearchAWS, as well as is quoted in major business publications including Forbes, Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, and the LA Times. David has appeared on NPR several times as a computing industry commentator, and does a weekly podcast on cloud computing.

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