Since I had a post about the various definitions of the “I” in CIO that need to be thought about, I might as well have one about the I’s that need to be avoided.

In the past innovators were a chosen few—predominately middle-aged, middle-class Western men. Tomorrow’s innovators will come from all corners of the globe, all races, religions, and classes. Not only can everyone be an innovator – it is an expectation going forward as more “normal” tasks are automated.

When I say I am only human, I’m saying that I’m innovative. I like to do things differently. The optimist view is that all humans are innovative. The environment of the future will be designed to support this level of personalization and creativity. It may even reach the point where what we think we’re talking with may not be human at all.

The pessimist may believe that as low as only one percent of any general population has the high motivation, intelligence, and creativity to be truly innovative.

For Canada, with a population of 32 million inhabitants, we can reason that 320,000 are innovators. In the United States, that number increases to three million innovators.

One percent of China’s and India’s combined population would be 26 million innovators. They’ll have nearly as many innovators as Canada has residents. Our global approach is opening up those innovations to the world, further accelerating change and adoption.

Yesterday I described the numerous hats today’s CIOs are required to wear — but what about the roles to avoid? Here are a few of the hats the CIO probably shouldn’t wear:


Chief inertia officer

Inertia is defined as “a property of matter by which it remains at rest or in uniform motion in the same straight line unless acted upon by some external force.” Inertia is what makes companies continue in a direction long after the signs of change have passed. It’s represented by fixed-cost decisions, where the enterprise is sometimes incapable of overcoming bad decisions simply because they were made recently and must be defended despite better reason.

When I was going through my MBA program, one of the things we had a great deal of discussion about was the fact that sunk costs are in the past, and they can’t be a constraint to your future.

Increasingly, the future isn’t a straight line from the past, and decisions made on that basis won’t serve the enterprise well. The CIO must be a force in overcoming organizational inertia and be a strong voice in understanding not only the points at which systems fail but also the point at which optimal performance is lacking.


Chief impediment officer

IT must be a business enabler, not a business impediment. Increasingly, applications are moving closer to business end users. The expectations are for greater flexibility for devices, systems and collaboration. CIO’s must understand and embrace (at least to the point of making an active decision instead of a passive one) topics like BYOD.

The CIO is responsible for smoothing the transition from a legacy IT environment to a business-flexible SOA, where IT will move as rapidly, and with as much agility, as the enterprise demands.


Chief inefficiency officer

The efficiency of the enterprise is often tied to the efficiency of the IT capabilities underlying and supporting it. Maintaining the efficiency of the IT infrastructure is becoming a more demanding chore.

Six-nines (99.9999 percent) availability requirements mean redundant, standby infrastructure, much of which remains unused until there’s a point of failure. Architecting computing infrastructure that can be highly efficient during low traffic but can quickly and economically scale to tens of thousands of business events are becoming practical. New processes, tools, and techniques will be necessary for most organizations and the CIO is on point to plan for this.

 CIOs must not only work at the strategy level, but also understand and relate to the details needed to make it happen. They must understand and preserve that which is optimally efficient, yet also muster the courage to find what could work better — to evangelize change. They must be part lawyer, technician, mediator, and change agent. The CIO must be as much at home in the business environment as they are in the technical world. No other position in the modern enterprise requires the executive to excel in so many capacities. Even if someone masters the many dimensions, it’s safe to say that the future CIO should prepare to take on further additional, unexpected responsibilities. It’s the nature of the job.

 Are you wearing in hats that you might need to take off? Do you have any other “don’ts” to add to my list?