Researchers at the IT Leadership Academy recalled this classroom scene as we pondered this month's CIO Habitat topic. What does IT decision making really look like? Is there a right way to make these decisions and to show this kind of leadership?
Here we examine the decision-making processes in a 100-company sample split evenly between large and midmarket businesses. We asked respondents how IT decision making has changed and what kind of decisions they're actually making. How are those decisions being made? Should that process be re-thought?
One thing that CIOs in both large and midmarket enterprises agree on is that IT decision making is undergoing dramatic change. As the amount of money involved in IT grows, so does the impact of IT on each company's financial health. As one veteran CIO at a major government contractor notes, "IT decision making has changed. It's a lot bigger now. I used to have a $300 million budget, and now I have a $1.2 billion budget."
Perhaps because of this overall increase in IT budgets in organizations of all sizes, we found that more people are involved and that decision processes have become more formalized and thus auditable.
Decision Making: It Takes a Village
"IT decisions used to be made in a much more siloed manner -- just IT and perhaps finance weighing in," says the CIO at a media and entertainment company. "Now decisions are made with much greater involvement with all areas of the business. There is a formal decision process for investments. Architectural decisions are often made with input from IT and business leaders. Everything is done much more collaboratively."
Indeed, everyone is getting on the "I make IT decisions" bandwagon. The CIO at a services company says that he involves his staff "not only in making key decisions, but in making sure they have 'skin in the game' [by] tying the success of the decision directly to their compensation."
Today, the focus of IT decisions is achieving a stated business outcome. And an ever-increasing level of business and technology complexity makes these decisions even more complex. The CIO at an aerospace conglomerate laments, "There are decisions on top of decisions on top of decisions. Everything is interrelated. That compounds to the point where you have 50 decisions to make simultaneously that you don't have the time to make." Decision complexity is further magnified by the global nature of so many businesses, while the windows of time during which to make these decisions are shrinking.
"The interdependence of multiple and more complex technical environments and the global nature of our IT business have made decision making more difficult," agrees the CIO at a technology manufacturer. "More variables need to be accounted for, the technical complexities and dependencies are greater, and more individuals are required to comprehend the totality and overall impact of a decision."
While this CIO believes his organization excels in gathering the right data to make informed decisions, the real struggle is doing it all fast enough. "We also do a good job at including the right ownership and content experts to ensure the impact of a decision is understood," he says, but adds that data gathering and consultative inclusion simply take too long.
This was first published in March 2007