ERP Organization: The Role of the CIO

As a growing business, you can no longer afford to run your information technology function informally, as a sort of ad hoc sidebar to your business processes - especially when implementing an ERP system. This means you are going to need to assign your CIO responsibility for implementing, and sustaining an ERP system that is consistent with your growth objectives, and enhances – not competes with – your strategic business advantage.

CIO Talents

As with all other ERP concerns, your major issue with your recruitment of an IT leader – and whatever size department he or she creates over time – is whether or not IT processes and programs are scalable as you grow. From that perspective, you want your CIO to be first and foremost someone who understands business, and can relate professionally and personally to your business leaders. Bringing in a computer science major with a 4.0 GPA from a top ten school is a waste of time if the individual cannot listen to business people talk, and effectively translate their business problems into ERP requirements. The ability to listen, and engineer sustainable and scalable solutions is the single biggest talent you are interested in when it comes to your CIO.

The second attribute of a good CIO is that he or she clearly recognizes that IT is a support role. This is not as silly as it sounds at first; many IT professionals believe that computers run the company, and therefore, the company is only as strong as its weakest program. Acting in a support role does not infer slavish subservience to any idea – good or bad. Rather, the key to a support role is, if a good idea requires that someone does extra work or someone gets an extra benefit, the support role should sign up for the extra work, and the profit-generating business unit should be awarded the extra benefit.

The third attribute of a good CIO is that he or she can build an effective administrative structure. A growing business does not have to get overly big before someone is needed to specialize in administering cell phones and someone else understands the server infrastructure, and someone else keeps track of ERP development requests, and so on. The ability to motivate and manage a professional IT staff, while keeping the group focused on ERP organization is a valuable talent.

The commonality among all three attributes is that your IT head is a businessperson first, and a computer geek second. Like your company, your IT head has the ability to grow, to adapt, and to mature. Able to keep their fingers on all the details when you were small, he or she should gracefully move into delegating and vision-setting as you get bigger. As CIO, they should continually look for ways to increase ROI on your ERP investment, and be able to articulate a five year plan.

Set the goal of looking back on your CIO hire as one of the top HR moves you made in your career. You’ll be glad you did.

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Shane Starr

About the author…

Shane Starr is a former ERP project manager, with business experience in manufacturing management, supply chain, finance, and strategic planning.

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Shane Starr