Westpac unchiefs the information officer
Tumbril calls for the PHB
Comment In a move that will send a thousand chills running down a thousand spines, the Australian bank Westpac has sent the janitor down the hall to the office marked “CIO” with a screwdriver and removed the brass plate.
In a management restructure announced yesterday, the CIO job ceased to be: in essence, the PHB* has been metaphorically taken out to the back paddock for a quiet bullet and an unmarked grave.
Instead, the role has been rolled up into a new creature called “group services” that has shocked the world of senior IT executives by equating the CIO with such mundane stuff as banking operations, property services and legal services. And, horror of horrors, IT is merely a line-of-reporting to the new COO at Westpac, John Arthur.
It had to happen.
The pumping of the CIO role has a twenty-year history, with vendors and analysts as its cheerleaders. Neither group was without self-interest: everybody gets a smoother path to the sale if they’re pitching to someone with “chief” at the beginning of the job title.
That marker of status and spending power saw the usual suspects then agitate for other tech posts to get the coveted C in front of their title (for example, Chief Security Officer).
However, the strategy only works if the CEO sees the payoff by way of better IT ops, lower costs, better customer satisfaction – anything at all really. The reality has been that costs have escalated throughout the industry and, in spite of glowing reports of most big-corporate IT strategies in the media, there are too many overdue projects, flaky systems, and high-profile security breaches.
Add to this the regular clamour that demands a rework of basic systems to adopt today’s fashion or fad, and IT begins to look, from the outside, like a vast game of nest-feathering and back-scratching.
From that point of view, demoting IT to answer to the COO might even look like good strategy: it will face a much more demanding and skeptical decision-maker, and will need to demonstrate success to justify its demands - in the face of competition from the rest of the COO's brief.
I’ll bet the world’s shuddering at Gail Kelley’s decision. It’s like she’s just told Sir Humprey Appleby that the Department of Administrative Affairs has to show a profit or be dismantled: civilization will fall.
Thankfully, in the ruins there will still be the BOFH actually keeping things running … ®
*PHB: Pointy-Haired Boss, with acknowledgement to Dilbert. ®
At least IT isn't reporting to the CFO
If IT reports to the COO it should have some relevance to the business. IT Departments that report to the CFO seem to be more interested in cutting their costs than enhancing the business (although they do seem to put a fair bit of effort into accounting systems).
Please Do The Needful
"Thankfully, in the ruins there will still be the BOFH actually keeping things running..."
With the current rate of infrastructure outsourcing going on in the Aus finance sector, before long that BOFH will be the Bastard Operator from Hyderabad
*Anonymous coward because I work at one of them. And I've been asked to consider a trip to India to train my replacement
Downfall of Empire Accompanied by Death of Publishing
It'll be the death of publishing. The marketeers won't know where to send those free glossy magazines and brochures which reinforce the often-dubious authority of the CIO.
Something of a cheer for common sense in recognizing the IT is a service for the benefit of whole-of-corporate goals (blimey; sounds like marketing fluff). IT is supposed to provide tools to improve the availability, utility and efficiency of access to information in the form that it is needed.
Not an excuse to build an empire within.
(Anonymous to let the points stand on their own merit.)
Nothing new here
Plenty of CIOs report to the COO ... this ain't news.