Should Businesses Split the CIO Role in Two?


As the debate whether CIOs are strategic or tactical rages on, Bain's top IT consultant suggests dividing those duties into two distinct positions. Could it happen? On top of their strategic role, CEOs largely operate externally—that is, hand-holding partners, advertisers, customers, etc.

Back at the office, the COO devotes his/her time to the tactical operations of the company. In other words, keeping the trains running.

Plenty of experts say that IT should be run like a business within the business. Rudy Puryear, a Bain Consulting partner and head of the firm's IT practice, is one of them. And he believes that to truly fulfill that promise, IT organizations may need to split the CIO role to reflect the CEO/COO dynamic.

CIOs today struggle with a delicate balancing act: planning for the future all while keeping the lights on. Strategic and tactical concerns tend to fall straight onto their plate. "We just cram all of that into one role," Puryear told me. And that forces the IT chief to prioritize one or the other.

So why not just split the CIO's duties? Titles aside, businesses can appoint one executive to plan IT strategy and another to execute. Some could argue that division creates more bureaucracy, but it could actually boost efficiency. And it'll go a long way to improving IT's perception across the business.

The reality is that many CIOs feel comfortable being a tactician. But others want their strategic skills to be recognized by their C-level colleagues. In that view, splitting the role makes sense.

On the other hand, most CIOs already have deputies who worry about tactical matters. How easy is it to rewrite the job descriptions to have two equal partners in the IT shop?

Tell us, IT leaders: would you benefit from having a clear strategical-vs.-tactical distinction in your job? And would your corporate executives go for the idea?