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Sam Lowe's blog on Enterprise IT

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Changes in the Role of the Enterprise CTO

I was talking with Ade McCormack of Auridian a few weeks ago on the changing nature of CIO and CTO roles that we were seeing in the organisations that we work with or talk to (mostly Western Europe-based).

Ade has incorporated some of his thoughts on the subject into his regular column in the FT last week, and it is definitely worth a look for anyone interested in IT leadership. If you didn't see it in print on Wednesday, then FT subscribers can get to it here, or it's on Auridian's site here.

Ade proposes that for organisations to be able to make use of IT effectively in developing their business model and their operating model, the CIO role needs to be far closer to, focused on, and more respected by the lines of business and the board. He describes that in order to free up the CIO to do that, you need to take away the operational side of the traditional CIO role. He proposes that the CTO role in organisations should change so it moves beyond the 'cleverest techie' that it tends to be now to apply its understanding of the technology to take operational accountabilities. He then proposes that this new repurposed role could then be supported by managers with the people skills and operational focus to run the IT department machine.

I like a lot of what Ade describes here, it has a lot of overlap with what I see. The CTO role as it exists in some organisations today can be a strange one. It is a term that has come from technology-centric companies such as Telcos, IT vendors etc who clearly need a technology visionary at the top of the organisation. But it has then been transposed into non-tech organisations, becoming a badge assumed by the people with the best technology expertise. But that doesn't seem appropriate for many. It can be difficult to justify the value of having a chief technical individual without accountabilities for realisation in non-tech-centric industries. Without accountabilities, CTOs' offices can become a strange kind of retained in-house IT analyst organisation, which isn't linked to value as the business would define it, and doesn't exactly help with business-IT alignment.

Of course outside of the US, organisations don't always use the terms CIO and CTO, indeed in the UK it's more common for the chief role to be IT director, however the same dynamics can still be seen. The value to decoupling operational and transformational focus, and the value of coupling technology strategy and realisation accountability both still apply.

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

DAMA Europe 2006 - Web 2.0 and Enterprise Data Management

I was at DAMA Europe 2006 in central London last week. I've been going for quite a few years now, and always find it thought-provoking. However there were some notable changes this year that were interesting.

The last couple of times I've spoken there it's been on more traditional Enterprise Data Architecture topics, which has been a good match - it is after all the largest independent Enterprise Data Management, Data Modelling, and Metadata Management event of the year. But this time I'd arranged with the organisers to do a bit of an off-the-wall topic drawing on Web 2.0 and asking what it might mean for Enterprise Data Management and Data Architectures.

In fact it seemed that there were similar messages starting to creep through into quite a few of the other presentations, which was very interesting. It seemed to represent a growing appreciation from some corners that the Enterprise Data Management community needs to think about managing information in ways beyond just the traditional consolidation, centralisation, replication and governance it has traditionally relied on.

I plan to put together some postings on the topics here, and having had several interesting conversations after the event with people that gave me some new ideas on how to structure this, I'd be interested to hear as well from others in the blogging community who have interests in this space.

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