Mike Donoghue

What IS a CIO? And why so misunderstood?

Mike Donoghue

The role and responsibilities of a CIO (Chief Information Officer) or IT Director as it is more commonly referred to in the UK is one that is often both misunderstood and maligned. This is in contrast to a CFO (the person who looks after the purse strings), CEO (the person who is overall responsible for business success) or COO (the person for making sure the business outputs as efficiently as possible) which are widely known, understood and vital roles within a business.

So exactly why is a CIO’s role misunderstood?

Well I believe that (certainly in the case of smaller businesses), the role of a CIO is often confused with that of an “IT Manager” or the general “IT go-to-person” that seems to be keeping the bits and the bytes in order on behalf of the business. Therefore when trying to define the role of a CIO, it is important to understand firstly, what the CIO doesn’t (or shouldn’t) do:

  • Answer support calls
  • Deal with isolated IT incidents
  • Get hands on and fix things that are broken
  • Be solely concerned with maintaining the “IT status quo”
  • Be an “IT tinker-person”
  • Be an empire builder – this is a very easy thing to do in IT because of the complexity of the subject matter – it’s terrible for “better business” however


Now we’ve established what a CIO shouldn’t do, how about what they should do? Here goes:

  • Be fully attuned to the businesses goals and objectives
  • Be responsible to the board for the businesses IT strategy, overall IT direction and IT service delivery – the IT buck stops here
  • Be constantly looking to achieve value for the business through the harnessing of new and important technologies
  • Be commercially aware – businesses can’t exist without sales and a good CIO knows and understands that – 100% of the time
  • Be a first class communicator – sadly a skill lacking in most IT individuals these days. ‘Youtube’ any Steve Jobs keynote for a “how to” on effective communication.
  • Be fully aware of the legal aspects of IT contracts – the small print can always trip you up in IT contracts
  • Manage vendors – simply because they need managing
  • Manage the IT team – if a CIO has an IT team under them, that team is the single most effective and valuable tool they possess
  • Understand the true costs of everything – managing the IT pounds and pence is just as important as managing the bits and the bytes
  • Make money and save money for the business – a CIO should be the person that the business turns to for inspiration about how to achieve more with less, make things go faster, reduce operational costs and get to market easier!
  • Understand and manage risk – the state of technology today unfortunately means that things can go wrong far too easily. Be aware of the effect your IT decisions have from a risk perspective and be prepared for the what ifs.
  • Don’t assume anything – know as much as possible. Find out what you don’t.

Over time, I believe businesses will understand that a CIO is vital to the success of any business as let’s face it, there aren’t many businesses in existence today that don’t deal in bits and bytes to some degree. The key thing for businesses to get their heads around right now is: what are we missing out on by not having a “true” CIO working for us?




Justin Weir

Who wants to work for an IT Company? Me it seems.

Justin Weir

I joined Economit in January 2014 having had first-hand experience of the financial benefit of working with Economit when reviewing and implementing a new CRM system. Their appeal being their truly independent ethos. As a business we didn’t have a designated IT Director and so the role had been split between team members who showed interest, not competency. What I had failed to see prior to our engagement with an outsourced IT Director was how much time and money I would have saved had we had their involvement far earlier in the process. CRM had become the most debated and time consuming topic in our office, the productivity lost across the business was immense – and having survived 2 previous implementations in other businesses I had recognised the need for an independent advisory service that wasn’t biased towards a specific product. By working with Economit my expectations were truly realised in that our business needs were finally being met through a flexible and transparent service that I could call upon when required.

3 years later having spent 19 years working in the engineering, IT and technical recruitment sector, the prospect of a career change to work for an IT company was both daunting and exciting. Whilst IT and technology had always been an interest – I didn’t feel I would have the knowledge required to sit in a consultancy capacity, but the operational challenge and chance to be involved, grow and develop a service I truly believed in won me over. What I have learnt from my career change is that a change of this nature doesn’t mean leaving your knowledge behind, as amongst the many new skills I have learnt I also quickly discovered that I had developed a vast array of skills that supported rather than hindered my transition into Economit.

For example: as a recruiter I had extensive experience in understanding and deciphering business strategy and company goals. That ability to assimilate and understand a business’ true drivers and what it intends to achieve is the basis of our IT assessments and it is this detailed analysis that ensures that we can deliver the best technical advice and solution to suit a client’s needs.

Equally, through our IT Director Service, we have been involved in skills assessment and departmental reviews that in turn have resulted in delivering resource structuring, sourcing and management to ensure our clients secure the best technical skills to fulfil their objectives. Having always fought for client time to gather the information required to deliver the best results as a recruiter, I now sit with a business through the delivery of a 3 – 5 year strategy, subsequent project scoping and delivery. By this point I know the business inside out making our resource structuring service an effective by-product of what we are already delivering strategically. I believe my experience here has been invaluable in adding further value to our range of services and client services.

In conclusion, a shared belief in offering a service based around integrity and trust drew me to Economit. I have been amazed at how our services have empowered our clients to massive commercial gain with their technology engagement. On a personal basis it has also confirmed that it is never too late to search out a new challenge.

Mike Donoghue

Get Your IT House in Order

Mike Donoghue

One of the best and most interesting aspects of consulting for our Economit client base is becoming immersed in the client’s actual business. And by business, I mean the day to day operations of that business whether it be in manufacturing, healthcare, distribution or professional services.

I believe the time has come whereby a senior IT individual cannot operate successfully in any business that they do not have a sound understanding of. Gone are the days of being an IT service company and providing nothing except run-of-the-mill helpdesk, break/fix maintenance and product supply services. Although these types of services are still required and do transpose well without the provider necessarily having to have too much of an in-depth understanding of the clients business, the stock in these types of profile of “IT service delivery” companies is quickly decreasing due to a combination of a high level of price-competitiveness and the difficulties faced by the company to differentiate itself – to stand out from the crowd of the many other companies out there doing more or less exactly the same thing. And no, simply claiming you deliver the “best customer service” no longer washes. Potential clients are much wiser to that kind of pulp nowadays.

But what of the client’s themselves? Is it simply enough to “know the client’s business” in order to provide them with the most sound technical and financial IT opinion on where they should take the technology aspects of their business forward? In short, the answer is no.

IT is a critical enabler of pretty much most businesses these days. But a better, more intelligent standard of IT can’t help right some of the wrongs that fundamentally exist in a business. Good IT should ideally be applied to good practice and procedure. If a business operates inefficient processes in the first place, then a better standard of IT when applied will do one of two things:

  • Make the newly improved IT systems seem like a waste of time and money because all that has been achieved is that bad practise has effectively been digitised – most businesses that fall into this category will be the change-resistant, bizarrely set in their ways, reluctant to try something new types that although may be comfortable now, will struggle to compete in tomorrow’s viciously fast-paced economy. Ever heard the phrase “always do the same thing – always get the same results”? Well, like it or not – it’s true. Most importantly, staff won’t buy in because they will see it as an over complication of their day to day tasks and failure will be abound.
  • Force the business to look introspectively at itself by asking questions such as: Do we really need to be doing it this way – surely there has to be an easier method? What would be the net effect if we changed this process? Can we measure this process for effectiveness? Why are we wasting so much time and money printing things off and creating an increased fire hazard in the process (a personal favourite of mine)?

So to be clear, better IT can help a business with poor processes and procedures up to a point. But only up to a point. It can benefit in areas such as resiliency, capacity management and processing horse power. But unless those fundamental processes and procedures improve, the holy grail of actually getting IT to reduce operational costs and even more so, increase sales revenues for the business will continue to elude. Only the businesses willing to change their fundamental operational approaches will yield these rewards when combined with an excellent technological standard.

Business man with ball and chain

Vendor lock-in

Business man with ball and chain

The term “vendor lock-in” is a fairly common one in the IT industry. It is basically a supplier-devised mechanism of ensuring that a customer is retained for the maximum length of time possible whilst maximising sales of as much product or service (or both) during that time. This is usually achieved by (some would say) unscrupulous means of “less than straightforward” contractual endeavours and/or “closed door” products/services that rather inconveniently for the customer, makes it very difficult for integration to occur between those vendor locked-in products/services and other products/services which the customer may wish to use in the future. Unless possibly an extra piece of software is required to be licenced from said vendor to make the integration possible – at a cost to the customer of course?

Obviously we’re all in business to make money – but vendor lock-in is something that has existed for far too long now in the IT industry and in our experience, is NEVER the best scenario for the client and only ever works in favour of the supplier – regardless of what the supplier says to defend themselves to the contrary.

In our opinion, the successful retaining of a customer on a long term basis needs to reflect one major benefit to that customer – value. Without the purpose of value, there surely would be no reason for a business relationship in the first place. Therefore it could be argued that the suppliers who aggressively purse vendor lock-in as a strategy, have a short term view of the actual value that can be realised of their products/services and use vendor lock-in methods as a dubious means to snare unsuspecting customers.

In other words, beware. Vendor lock-in may not only result in unexpected costs for the business in the long run, much worse it may also result in inhibiting business growth.