The CIO, CTO, and Managing 21st Century Assets

There I was, strolling into Ted Friedman’s Gartner Symposium talk on Information Governance with low expectations. Ted is smart, but Information Governance is old territory for me. If it was anyone but Ted, I would have spent the time researching or writing.

So glad it was Ted. So glad I attended.

It wasn’t any particular insight that he expressed. As a whole, the talk covered familiar ground, balancing the needs of Information Governance with the practical needs of the business. What struck me was a comment how Information Governance seems to be simultaneously owned by both everyone and no one.

If Information is an asset, shouldn’t it be given equivalent priority? Money is managed by the Chief Financial Officer and people are managed by the Chief People Officer. What about information?


We Are Doing It Wrong

Ted didn’t mention the Chief Information Officer at all during his talk. When someone asked why, Ted pointed out that the role has evolved to focus more on the tools more than Governance. I believe that this is because most CIOs are from the ranks of the IT department. [Note: Also because Governance is a losing proposition in most organizations. See the end of this post.]

THAT is our problem.

When I was the CIO of AIIM, I wasn’t just the CIO, I was also the Chief Technology Officer. In fact, I acted primarily as the CTO. I was responsible for AIIM’s information assets and I was responsible for ALL the technology in the organization.

That isn’t the CIO’s job. At least that SHOULDN’T be the CIOs job. The CIO should be making sure that the Information Assets are properly kept, measured, and managed.

The CIO should OWN Information Governance.

That should be their primary job.

Parallels to the CFO

Let’s look at the role of the CFO for some clarity. Their job is to report on the money. With the assistance of IT, led by the CTO, they select the tools needed to generate the reports and metrics that keep the organization moving. They govern and measure the money. They are audited regularly to make sure that they are doing it properly.

How about the CIO? Information is a critical asset, even if it is less liquid than money.image

The CIO, with the assistance of IT, should select the tools needed to generate the reports and metrics that keep the organization moving. They should govern and measure the Information. They should be audited regularly to make sure that they are doing it properly.

Notice the addition of “should” in that description. That is because reality doesn’t match the need.

The CIO should not be IT. They should be the managers of the Information. They should OWN Information Governance. Like any C-level these days, they should be well-versed in technology, but they shouldn’t be the technology expert.

Would you install an IT person as the CFO? The COO? The CPO? I think not. So why do we insist on doing it in the CIO role? Sure, an IT person can grow into the role, divorcing themselves from IT, but nobody encourages them to make the switchover.

The CTO Role

The CTO role is very simple. Keep up with the latest technologies and work with the other leaders in the organizations to make sure that they have the tools to do the job. The CTO never selects the technology used by the business on their own. They work with the business owners to select the right tool.

The CTO implements and makes sure that all the technology is working as a coherent whole. They own the internal development projects. They make sure that systems are up as the needs of the business dictate.

They work with the CIO to select the collaboration platform because the CIO is the business. Let me repeat that. The CIO is not IT. The CIO is the BUSINESS.

So Now What?

We need to fix this, somehow. It starts with education. The simple parallel between the CFO and CIO is what triggered these thoughts in my head. Maybe it will help others.

The other step is helping people better understand the value of Information. Everyone agrees that Information has a value. The trick is in how we measure that value. If we can provide some sort of readily understood value metric against Information then maybe, just maybe, Information Governance will finally get the attention that it needs.

2 thoughts on “The CIO, CTO, and Managing 21st Century Assets

    • The CIO should be on the side of business. The CIO should know the business cold. It may be best to describe it as the CIO needing to be a person from the buisness side of the organization that truly understands technology. Just as the CFO understands how money flows through the business, the CIO must understand how Information flows through the business.


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