On December 12, 2014, the CIO Journal feature of the Wall Street Journal included an article written by Rachael King on the appointment of Julie Lagacy to the position of CIO for Caterpillar. The title of King’s article is Caterpillar’s New CIO Has a Finance Background. While I agree with King”s decision to write about this appointment, in my opinion the significance of it is very different, in fact, a direct opposite, from what King portrays in her article.
King quotes Peter High, whom she identifies as “president of strategy and management consulting firm Metis Strategy, LLC”. She includes a quote from an email message High apparently sent out to his subscribers after the announcement of Lagacy’s appointment to the position of CIO for Caterpillar: “[a]s IT grows in complexity and as IT is at the heart of so much innovation in companies, increasingly IT must act like any other business division, and it must speak the language of business: finance” (quoted from Rachael King’s article. I’ve included a link to the article in the first paragraph of this post).
In October of this year I attended a two day seminar in New York City hosted by Microsoft on the topic of Office 365 Adoption. The title for the seminar was Office 365 Summit: New York. The Keynote presentation for this seminar, which was presented by Michael Atalla of Microsoft (Atalla, per his LinkedIn Profile is Director, Product Management, Office) picked up on precisely the same topic of the role enterprise IT organizations (and their management, ie CIOs), in 2014, and going forward, will play with regards to the route innovation takes as it enterprise the enterprise. But Atalla portrayed the route, and enterprise IT’s role quite differently. He went to some length to describe the notion of highly consumerized technology, which, nevertheless, constitutes the “leading edge” of innovation, entering the organization as the result of ubiquitous BYOD policies. Along this route, Atalla characterized enterprise IT as playing much more of a custodial role in this process than anything close to a leadership role.
I agree with what I take to be Atalla’s assessment. In my opinion Caterpillar’s decision to appoint a senior finance manager, Julie Lagacy, is an example of how this custodial role is playing out for very large businesses here in the U.S., and not the kind of decision Peter High (and, presumably, Rachael King) consider it to be. Enterprise IT is no longer “the heart of so much innovation”. Perhaps it never was.
Ira Michael Blonder
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