An article in The Wall Street Journal this week highlights how one CEO learned the hard way to take IT more seriously.
Before Hyundai Capital chief executive Ted Chung got word early this spring that a hacker was holding his company's confidential data for ransom, he didn't think the IT department was any more important than other corporate functions. The South Korean consumer finance firm's leader told the WSJ that he kept IT at arm's length, only realizing after the hack that he needed to be directly involved in its policies and procedures.
Chang has joined a growing trend of CEOs grasping the importance of being committed to IT, 110 percent.
"No CEO is that stupid not to pay attention [to IT]," Chung told the paper. "But maybe they paid the same attention I did, which is increasing the budget, giving encouragement but then saying, What the hell do I know about programming? That's the wrong support... Spend your time to understand IT..."
Now, Chung's IT department reports directly to him, and he's involved in setting policies that help it run more effectively -- such as agreeing to lengthen response time on a company Website if that's what's required for better security, or reconsidering the need for a new Website that may expose the company to a fresh vulnerability.
Chung's story is not unique. A recent IBM survey report on CIOs notes the growing importance of enterprise technology leadership, as embodied in the role of the CIO: "CIOs are moving closer to the locus of power in their
organizations. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise that there is a stronger alignment in the thinking of CEOs and CIOs."
In its report on a survey of over 3,000 CIOs worldwide, IBM refers to the CEO/CIO relationship as one of "shared executive agendas."
Nothing new here; for years, analysts have stressed the importance of aligning IT with the most vital organizational strategies. They've railed about the risks of not doing this. And much space has been devoted to educating CIOs and other tech leaders about how to communicate with the top brass.
Yet apparently, a gap remains between CEOs and IT that can lead to problems. Sometimes, it's only after a crisis occurs, as it did at Hyundai Capital, that consciousness is raised and priorities adjusted.
Organizational experts continue to work at closing the CEO/IT gap, especially as the importance of "big data" and online activity grows. In a column in The Wall Street Journal in April 2011, Jeanne W. Ross and Peter Weill of the MIT Sloan Center for Information Systems Research asserted the importance of a closer bond between IT and top management:
In a digital economy, IT is the foundation for doing business... companies of all types are discovering that how they manage IT is crucial to their competitiveness... This doesn't mean that top executives should review every IT investment proposal and decision. But it does mean that senior management must define how the company as a whole will do business in a digital economy. It means they must lead the IT initiatives that cut across all business lines. And it means they must resolve issues that local interests cannot resolve—like what data and processes will be standardized companywide.
Unfortunately, too many CEOs and other top executives often don't even know where to begin when it comes to managing IT.
If you're concerned about closing the gap between CEOs and IT, join us here for a live chat about this topic on Monday, June 27, at 1:00 p.m. ET.
— Mary Jander , ThinkerNet Editor, Internet Evolution