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Chief influencing officer

Helen Beckett | April 12, 2013
As we head deeper into 2013, the signs that this year will be unforgiving for napping CIOs are there, lit up in glaring neon. The second week of January saw the collapse of three retail empires - HMV, Blockbuster and Jessops - a demise that many critics attribute to myopia around the business impacts of the internet.

When Steward joined PZ, the big push was on infrastructure: the global WAN, the LAN, a big piece around the service desk and a way of managing processes all had to be overhauled. The rationale for all this was to have a common set of processes so that businesses could function both locally and globally.

"If you make something in one place and sell in another, the supply chain has to be joined up," says Steward. One of his first tasks was to build a global data network, a commodity piece but essential to support the global business.

Entrepreneurial flair is called for, too, but this has to be engrained in the role, advises Steward. "First and foremost, you have to be a business leader - who happens to be responsible for IT. I like to say a key part of the CIO's role is to understand the business process model," he says.

Whereas in a lot of organisations, things 'just happen', increasingly in the effective enterprise there are clear business processes in order to be efficient. These can be then embedded in the IT applications, with an appropriate infrastructure supporting them underneath.

Historically, IT departments have run a bunch of infrastructure and application services and it's still possible to go and buy stuff, such as a new ERP system, to do that. But to run a more modern enterprise, reflects Steward, you need to do end-to-end service management.

"I don't like to talk about ITIL because that's IT vocabulary - but we're talking about transparent and holistic end-to-end services. These flow from the customer - or user - through to the vendor or third parties who are delivering the solution, with IT acting as broker, somewhere in the middle."

How does the day job work?

Richard Steward, former CIO, PZ Cussons

"If you live and breathe IT you don't consciously [allocate time to] the different CIO sub-roles of integration, infrastructure and innovation. The shift towards a business focus is just a product of a new way of working: the complexity of and the speed to markets require interoperability between all parts of the business. The connector for all this just happens to be IT, which places the CIO at the centre of things.

"I think the CIO job is heading towards a chief operations officer role. This would split into two pieces: first the delivery of IT services and second, the forward-planning of capabilities that enable the business to connect. The CEO is clearly an outward-facing role. Conversely, the CIO must focus inwards; the remit is to get the internal piece working."

Integration of a business kind

At Domestic & General, a specialist provider of warranties for white goods, the CIO role is two-fold: keeping the lights on and introducing services that support business manufacturing partners, says CIO Peter Edwards.


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