Rising stars, falling stars

 
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Information Week reports on the changing organizational position of the CIO and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution does the same for Chief Learning Officers (CLOs). First, Information Week.

"At the annual meeting last month of the Society for Information Management, rumor had it that a bombshell was buried in the results of the organization's annual IT management survey. And so there was: The percentage of CIOs and other top IT executives reporting directly to CEOs had fallen dramatically from the year-earlier survey, SIM revealed. Last year, 45% of the business technology executives surveyed said they report to the CEO; this year, it's just 31%. At the same time, the percentage of CIOs reporting to the company CFO has risen, to 29% from 25%. The implication? The CIO's influence is waning."

And now the AJC.

"There are new players at the directors' tables of many businesses. More companies are adding chief learning officers (CLOs) to the executive suite of CEO, CFO, CTO, COO and other top managers who determine company strategy."

What's going on here? Merely the waxing and waning of corporate fashion and perceived need.

Look back over a few decades of organization charts and annual reports and you see that there are only a few positions consistently in the C-suite. The line functions, operations and marketing tend to be there, along with one staff function, finance. Everything else comes and goes.

Back in the late Sixties and early Seventies, people who'd been in the computer department worked hard to change the name of the department to Management Information Systems (MIS) and then to Information Technology (IT). Both usually reported to the Chief Financial Officer.

Increasing computing power changed the competitive landscape. Shrewd companies figured out that IT could provide competitive advantage. So the department came out of the shadows into the sunlight. Soon there was talk, and then the reality of Chief Information Officers (CIOs).

But IT is no longer a source of great competitive advantage. It's mostly table stakes now. You want the best IT you can get and afford, but most companies aren't going to steal a march on their competition because of the IT.

Human Resources (HR) has never been able to move out of the shadows for two important reasons. While most senior business leaders say that they value human resources, they act like people are interchangeable parts and relationships don't matter. And while most HR executives like to talk about how they should have "a seat at the table," they act like regulation-loving apparatchiks.

It will be interesting to see what happens to the term Chief Learning Officer. After all, the person who becomes CLO is probably someone who used to head up the training department, which is usually nested in Human Resources.

And senior executives have tended talk a better game about training than they have usually played. In my experience, when times get hard, training budgets are among the first to approach zero and being a Chief anything with a zero budget is usually not a good thing.

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Wally Bock has helped people learn to be great bosses for more than a quarter century. His latest book, Performance Talk: The One-on-One Part of Leadership, makes learning key leadership principles almost effortless by teaching through a story and providing lists of resources for further growth.

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  • 12/12/2007 11:32 PM Steve Roesler wrote:
    Wally,

    A timely post.

    Early today I received a call to inform me that the CIO at a client company was no longer reporting to the CEO; or the CFO. The position now reports to the head of one of the business units of the corporation.

    The new CEO does, in fact, value IT. That's not the issue. The issue for him was, "Where does this really belong in the hierarchy of things based upon a realistic assessment of its role in the company."

    Perhaps lean times have forced a more realistic assessment elsewhere, too.
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