Reverse Engineering


Call me a heretic, but don't call me old-school. In traditional publishing circles, lauding another magazine is considered giving comfort to the enemy. But everyone is an information junkie these days, and, like you, I read tons of magazines. One I look forward to reading is CIO. Top-shelf writing, great graphics and high standards set it apart.

But lately it seems preoccupied with whining about the evolving role of CIOs in the corporate landscape. Will CIOs become obsolete? Does IT matter anymore?

When I speak to CIOs and other IT executives I don't find these questions resonating. Maybe it's just CIOs in retailing, an industry in the midst of a progressive tech revolution. Nicholas Carr's silly opinion that IT no longer matters is a non-issue in this crowd. In the hyper-competitive world of retailing, there's no time for whiners.

However, to give the devil it's due, those who just maintain IT assets, deliver commodity systems and are primarily charged with cutting costs might have something to whine about. But most retail CIOs are widely respected for having an incredible command of the expanding role of technology and many are considered visionaries within their companies.

Michael Schrage, one of the better writers appearing in CIO, is also a sought-after consultant and speaker at IT conferences, including the Retail Executive Summit, sponsored by RIS News, in late September in Miami.

Schrage appears in our "Insider's Insight" column, where he tackles critical issues relevant to CIOs. The takeaway I pick up from Schrage is that the primary role of IT isn't to keep the lights running or cut costs, but to produce asset-building innovation. Therefore, the primary role of a CIO is to be a change agent who uses technology to achieve productive transformation.

To maximize the value of corporate investment in IT and deliver key advantages over competitors, CIOs need to focus not just on the work done, but on the results. In fact, a powerful tool CIOs can use to help ensure a results-oriented focus is reverse engineering. Start with the end result in mind €” and then work backward.

Aligning IT strategy with business strategy is the surest way CIOs can build corporate assets and transform their organizations into competitive powerhouses. It's also a big job that requires skill, talent and buy-in throughout the organization. Whiners need not apply.

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