As organizations have accepted the integration of technology into their everyday business practices, it has become necessary to focus the technological activities of organizations into a specialized group of individuals. This has led to new positions such as system analysts, who focus on formulating technological solutions for organizational problems. Many organizations have found a need for programmers to implement specialized business tools that address problems specific to their company or industry. System integrators may be necessary to take diverse solutions and bring them together in a cohesive form (Senn, 2004). Of all the new positions created by the shift to more technology-dependent business practices, the Chief Information Officer is the most important.
The Chief Information Officer (CIO) is the individual entrusted with the development and maintenance of the organization's technological capabilities. First and foremost, the CIO must understand that business strategy defines the framework in which technology strategy must be constructed. In other words, technology must assist an organization in achieving its goals, not set goals. Within the framework defined by business strategy, the CIO must have the vision to see how technology can be used to achieve those goals. That being said, the CIO is still a business leader, and customary business practices such as cost reduction and efficiency are still important factors in technology solutions. Finally, the CIO is the leader of a team of technology professionals. As such, she must always strive to improve the quality of her team members (Senn, 2004). For some, this may mean removing low-performing individuals. For others, this will mean fostering environments that are conducive to learning and growth.
One individual that epitomizes the role of the Chief Information Officer is Gelacio Iñiguez. Iñiguez was brought on as the CIO of CEMEX in the mid-1980s. Based in Mexico, CEMEX is one of the world's top producers of cement and concrete. At the time, cement production did not seem like an industry that would benefit from the introduction of technology. CEMEX's Chief Executive Officer, Lorenzo Zambrano, understood that in order for CEMEX to become the top producer of cement and concrete in Mexico, it needed to develop a competitive advantage over its competitors. He saw that advantage as responsiveness to changing customer demands. Iñiguez realized that the key to responsiveness was communication between CEMEX's various facilities. Iñiguez overcame traditional corporate thinking and began implementing systems to improve human communication, as well as, communication between the various systems involved in production and delivery. He soon linked all production plants and delivery trucks via a satellite-based network. This communication allowed trucks to be re-routed based on customer demands and fostered company-wide innovation as local improvements were shared throughout the organization (Hamel, 2002).
In his tenure as CEMEX's CIO, Gelacio Iñiguez faced many challenges. He understood that becoming more responsive to changing customer demands was the strategy that CEMEX wished to employee to gain an advantage over competitors. Within this framework of a business strategy, Iñiguez and his team had the vision to see the challenges presented by that strategy and how technology could be used to overcome them. His brilliance is not in understanding that trucks on the road can be re-routed to more immediate needs, but rather that improved communication between CEMEX's disparate locations could improve company performance as a whole. In addition to this vision, Iñiguez had to have the fortitude to take on traditional corporate methods of operation and revamp them for success in a technologically driven business environment.
Hamel, G. (2002). Leading the revolution: How to thrive in turbulent times by making innovation a way of life. New York: Plume Book.
Senn, J. A. (2004). Information technology: Principles, practices, opportunities (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.