March 7, 2012

The Meaning of CIO Squared

An article in CIO Magazine (1 March 2012) describes the term "CIO Squared" as "the combination of chief information officer and chief innovation officer," and goes on to provide examples of CIOs that are both of these. 

While I respect this definition of the term and think innovation is certainly critical to the success of any CIO, and for that matter any organization in our times, I have been writing a column called CIO Squared for a couple of year now in Public CIO magazine and have other thoughts about what this really means. 

Moreover, I think the article in CIO missed the point of what "squared" really implies. 

Like the notion that 1+1=3, CIO Squared is a concept that the CIO is not just multi-faceted and -talented (that would be 1+1=2), but rather that the CIO integrates multiple facets and roles and synergizes these so that they have an impact greater than the sum of the parts (i.e. 1+1=3). 

I see the CIO Squared fulfilling its potential in a couple of major ways:

- Firstly, many organizations have both a Chief Information Officer and a Chief Technology Officer--they break the "Information Technology" concept and responsibility down into its components and make them the responsibility of two different people or different roles in the organization. One is responsible for the information needs of the business and the other brings the technology solutions to bear on this.  

However, I believe that fundamentally, a truly successful CIO needs to be able to bridge both of these functions and wear both hats and to wear them well. The CIO should be able to work with the business to define and moreover envision their future needs to remain competitive and differentiated (that's the innovation piece), but at the same time be able to work towards fulfilling those needs with technology and other solutions. 

Therefore, the role split between the CIO as the "business guy" and the CTO as the "technology whiz" has to merge at some point back into an executive that speaks both languages and can execute on these.  

That does not mean that the CIO is a one-man team--quite the contrary, the CIO has the support and team that can plan and manage to both, but the CIO should remain the leader--the point of the spear--for both.  

Another way to think of this is that CIO Squared is another name for Chief Information Technology Officer (CITO). 

- A second notion of CIO Squared that I had when putting that moniker out there for my column was that the CIO represents two other roles as well--on one hand, he/she is a consummate professional and business person dedicated to the mission and serving it's customer and stakeholders, and on the other hand, the CIO needs to be a "mensch"--a decent human being with integrity, empathy, and caring for others.  

This notion of a CIO or for that matter any CXO--Chief Executive Officer or the "X" representing any C-suite officer (CEO, COO, CFO, CHCO, etc.)--needs to be dual-hatted, where they perform highly for the organization delivering mission results, but simultaneously do so keeping in mind the impact on people and what is ultimately good and righteous.

Therefore, the CIO Squared is one who can encompass both business and technology roles and synthesize these for the strategic benefit of the organization, but also one who is mission-focused and maintains integrity and oneness with his people and G-d above who watches all. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)


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