A New Role for the CIO: Reducing Complexity

By Ron Ashkenas  |  Posted 2009-12-08 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

There are four areas in which CIOs can reduce complexity: inefficient organizational designs; product and service proliferation; unmanaged process evolution; and ineffective but unintentional managerial behaviors.

Most technology organizations today are under pressure to provide greater value with smaller budgets. To meet this challenge, CIOs and other senior IT leaders can use complexity reduction as a key strategy to reduce costs and create an organization that can better leverage technology.

Here’s a case in point: When Ford Calhoun was the CIO for GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Pharmaceuticals, he simplified and de-layered IT’s organizational structure, streamlined development and support processes, eliminated duplicate applications and focused the entire IT organization on a common framework for doing business. With this approach, over the course of several years, Calhoun and his team lowered the cost of IT by hundreds of millions of dollars, reduced the average cycle time for the completion of business application projects by 75 percent and more than doubled the calculated ROI in IT—while also launching new strategic initiatives in infrastructure service, Web enablement, ERP and collaboration tools.

The gains that GSK achieved through complexity reduction can be found in many technology organizations. The key is to accept the fact that, while some complexity is inevitable, much of it is self-generated and can therefore be reversed. Based on this understanding, there are four areas that CIOs can explore to reduce complexity: inefficient organizational designs; product and service proliferation; unmanaged process evolution; and ineffective but unintentional managerial behaviors.

In each of these areas, CIOs and senior IT leaders need to ask the right questions to engage their staff and their business partners in a dialogue about simplification opportunities. Here are some of the questions that can be asked in each category:



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Ron Ashkenas is a managing partner at Robert H. Schaffer &, Associates, a Stamford, Conn., management consulting firm, and the author of the book Simply Effective: How to Cut Through Complexity in Your Organization and Get Things Done (Harvard Business Press).
 
 
 
 
 
 

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