What's In a Name - CIO or CBT? Thu 07 Jun 07
George F. Colony the CEO over at Forrester Research has been suggesting that we stop calling what we do "Information Technology" and instead call it "Business Technology". He makes his case in an August, 2006 article available at Forrester Research (free registration required) called "My View: IT to BT". Brian Gillooly over at Optimize Magazine Blog reports that his was also a theme at a Forrester IT Forum and cites it as "More Evidence The Shelf-Life Of The "CIO" Title May Be Shrinking". Along with this is some discussion of changing the Chief Information Officer (CIO) title to Chief Business Technologist (CBT).
The thrust of this argument is that the focus has shifted from simply operating the mechanics of information technology to being an integral part of the business. Colony states "business is technology and technology is business". While I do certainly welcome more focus on the business aspects I'm not sure I completely agree with Colony.
There is no question that IT/BT is crucial to business today. But then so is Human Resources, Marketing, Production, Supply Chain etc. Should we change their names to Business Resources, Business Analytics, etc. etc. My point is that a name change is just that - a name change and nothing more. If it helps you focus on what you should be doing then fantastic. But merely changing the name alone doesn't change what you do and how you do it.
Heather Clancy reporting on the IT Forum talks about the BT initiatives at GM and Best Buy. She reports that the GM CIO Ralph Szygenda has hired 1,000 business strategists since 1996. Given the decline of GM that is a very scary statement. It is also a good example of where technology isn't the business and probably never will be. As a manufacturer the product is the business and until GM starts making a decent product that customers want they won't be successful no matter what technology they employ. Maybe they should have hired 1,000 marketers and designers instead.
Best Buy is an interesting contrast. As a retailer their product is the shopping experience and this is a case where perhaps technology is the business as it really can be the reason you shop there. Gillooly reports that Robert Willett the Best Buy CIO has renamed the titles for people on his team to help promote more of a business technology culture. When you read Clancy's description of what Willett is doing at Best Buy it is apparent there is some actual substance to "business technology" than a mere name change. In looking up Willett on the Best Buy website I noticed his title is "Chief Executive Officer - Best Buy International & Chief Information Officer" indicating a true business and technology connection.
For me the bottom line is - it doesn't matter so much what you are called but what you do.
What do you think, should it be CIO or CBT?
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