Technology may take over human resource?

by Ashwani Mishra    Aug 02, 2011

Jeanne W RossMany enterprises are making limited use of technologies aimed at employee development says Jeanne W. Ross, Director and Principal Research Scientist at the MIT Sloan School’s Center for Information Systems Research in a telephonic interview with CXOtoday.com.

Ross lectures, conducts research, and directs executive education courses on IT management practices. She has served on the faculty of customized courses for many firms like PepsiCo, McKinsey, Johnson & Johnson, General Electric, IBM etc.

[Q] What is your perspective on the role of the CIO, where is it headed and what could be the challenges?

[A] Technology has become the foundation for doing business. CIOs need to deliver services to the business and at the same time ensure that technology related operations are highly reliable, low-cost and low-risk.

If we look at the last five to ten years, CIOs in good organizations have really done a great job in choosing IT solutions and delivering these to the business. They have excelled in creating project methodologies, the ability to re-use and architect their applications.

In future, the cloud model and the services offered through this model will change responsibilities within an organization. This is also because various business units have become IT savvy and there is a lot of consumerization of IT.

The role of the CIO now is to make sure that the company gets a lot of value for the technology that is deployed. They need to ask if there is a capability built around business intelligence and analytics, around collaboration, business process optimization and business architecture.

The new CIO will have to ensure effective, competitive and strategic use of IT in the organization. They have to take more responsibility for innovation as opposed to merely running IT processes and systems. They need to build a right platform that will have their core business transactions embedded within the organization. This will help them to innovate.

If they fail to do this, their role will never change. They will end up cleaning the mess year after year. They will keep thinking of solutions rather than creating platforms for their business.

[Q] What should CEOs do to leverage their CIOs more appropriately?

[A] The CEO has to embrace the idea that business processes need to be well defined and owned within the organization. The architecture of an organization reflects how they need to operate and CEOs need to articulate how they plan to operate.

If they miss out on this, the role of IT becomes impossible. There is no way a CIO can build support for an organization that does not have a clearly stated and relatively stable concept of how the company needs to operate.

[Q] You once said that the CIOs should take on the HR role? How do you see these two units merge?

[A] Well, honestly, I was trying to be very provocative with that statement.

Technology has the potential to allow companies to measure and improve staff effectiveness. There are software providing tools for compensation management, performance management, recruiting, retention, settling in new employees, talent analysis and training.

However, many enterprises are making limited use of technologies aimed at employee development, leaving the door open for the IT department to take charge of their implementation. The role of technology is to deliver business benefits to the users and make them better. We need to set up a matrix to tell if we are addressing business goals and keep assessing those from time to time. If you look at most HR departments, they are not doing that.

And if HR fails to do this, we will find IT stepping in and doing more around the effective use of technology and staff development. We will see emergence of a leader who understands this tight relationship between using technology and information well, and making people more effective. The leader could be the CEO or COO or the CIO.

[Q] You have co-authored a book on IT governance. What is your take on governance within enterprise environments today?

[A] I believe governance has become a scapegoat. If things do not go well with a company, people say “bad governance,” and there is truth to it.

I think we have to constantly think about governance in the context of management. When we design an organization, our most important objective is addressed with our structure. We need to create heads of processes and services within this structure.

IT governance is a learning process. It is important for someone to take the responsibility to check whether the company is receiving the business value they desire from their processes. Generally speaking, the committees that are created and the processes that are initiated will not run smoothly from the start.

We need to create processes that can be pushed down through the organization.

Enterprises should never give up on governance. Even when things have not significantly improved, one should continue to diagnose why they have not improved. It is important to realize that IT governance is a very important component to the success of any business.