Mindsets of the Indian CIO

CIOL Bureau
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Subroto Bagchi


Some of my

readers are intrigued that they don't get to read about the IT industry in this

column. They get to read everything other than IT related things. So this time,

let me broach a subject related to IT - it is about IT leadership.

Sometime back, I had the opportunity to speak at a Cyber India Online event on
the subject of the 'chief information officer (CIO) as a business strategist'.

During the interaction, I conducted a poll on two things. What will the Indian

CIO's strategic imperative be in 2010? Secondly, what does he consider as his

own inadequacy from a strategic perspective? Fifty-nine top Indian CIOs

responded to the survey. Let us take a look at the findings.

Twenty-six per cent of them thought that growth and expansion will be the key
strategic imperatives in 2010. That is what they are marching towards.

Twenty-three per cent said increased customer orientation; 15 per cent felt it

is about increased people orientation. Only 11 per cent thought that

technology, as a business enabler, is the strategic imperative for 2010.

Business process restructuring, response to external change, and focus on

profitability - each of these engaged 9, 8 and 6 per cent of the respondents

respectively. Only 2 per cent felt knowledge is a key strategic imperative for


After the last few years of uncertainty, the Indian economy looks poised to
move to the next level. The self-confidence to take on global competition is

pervasive among Indian companies, and the sheer size of the domestic market is

making the canvas interesting. In that context, growth as the strategic issue

makes sense. It is what CIOs are hearing from their bosses. This is somewhat

linked to the 23 per cent response on customer orientation - I find the two to

be inter-connected. So the challenge really becomes, how to use technology to

open new business avenues and engage with existing customers?

Now to shift gears to what the Indian CIO thinks as his strategic shortcoming
vis-à-vis the future. Eighteen per cent said they had a behavioural gap to

fill. Another 17 per cent felt they must further improve their own IT

knowledge. This wasn't surprising, given the rapid technological changes and

the often bewildering impacts of convergence. Add to that, the arrival of an

increasingly tech-savvy and younger workforce. Sometimes they know more than

you. Fifteen per cent of respondents felt they lack the leadership skills to

play a central role in their organisations, and 13 per cent felt they need to

cultivate more business knowledge. Nine per cent thought they lack people

skills, 6 per cent had concerns about health and family, and 5 per cent had

concerns about growth. Finally, 4 per cent each felt they lack creativity,

customer focus and time management skills.

The survey threw two interesting points in my mind. How come only 4 per cent of
the CIOs polled thought of knowledge as a key imperative, while in the same

breath they think of business expansion and customer intimacy as strategic? How

will they get to these imperatives without a complete and new look at how IT

can be used to build and distribute knowledge in and beyond the system? And how

is it that only 4 per cent of the CIOs identify creativity as a strategic gap?

Are we already high on creativity or is it a case of knowing not, what we know


The time has come for CIOs to think deeply about knowledge and creativity.
These, and not technology, will be key differentiators in the next five years.

Enabling these two will be critical for them to become partners to business functions.

Globalisation in terms of customer, supplier, employee, technology and capital

bases will make issues complex, real time and unscripted. IT would become a

vehicle to expand and deliver the organisation's neural capacity.

It is unlikely that the directive will come with a clear mandate from the top.
The CIO will have to be much more frontal, much more proactive. Many of them

are in the mode in which they want to be the tail to the strategy dog. That

must change as a mindset. The million-dollar question: is the Indian CIO ready

for a makeover?

Source: Businessworld