Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away...

I’d better stop there or my partner (editor, and chief critic) will again be asking me: ‘what time did you say you wrote this? You should sleep more...’ Writes Jon G Hall CITP FBCS.

The topic of this column sprang into my head very early one morning, though, one of those thoughts you’ve got to get onto the smartphone before you can get back to sleep. I’d just helped get a company’s accounts ready for their AGM when it struck me...

All in the definition

If the ‘I’ stands for Income and the ‘O’ stands for Outgoings, what does the ‘C’ of CIO stand for?

Cash? If so, then:

CIO = Cash, Income, Outgoings?

By anyone’s standards, that’s a one-dimensional definition of the CIO role. Not that finance isn’t important; of course it is. But there’s much, much, more to the CIO.

For instance? Well, not only does IT do all the ‘bit plumbing’ – allowing Alice and Bob to talk securely despite Carol’s best efforts to stop them – IT also drives any and all innovation in your organisation, improving effectiveness, efficiency, productivity, and, yes, creativity. And creativity begins with a ‘C’. Coincidence? I think not!1

You don’t have to be in a creative organisation for creativity to be key to success. Any organisation that helps its customers and clients to solve their business problems needs that creativity. For instance?

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I recently did some work with a gym that mentors elite-level athletes. Although they only have a few clients (10s, not 100s or 1000s), each is highly motivated. The gym is looking to move their pro-level measurement tech into the local amateur market to design personalised fitness and dietary regimes to less elite clients.

After we got the ‘hellos’ out of the way, their very first question was to ask what I thought the right price point for this new service should be. Now, that’s clearly an important decision to get right, but there are many other factors that make the final answer a movable feast.

Making a decision

For instance? They have this box of digital tricks that does a magical job of collecting body stats. The magic is that it does it non-invasively; there are no ‘samples’ just a couple of wires.

It literally takes five seconds to do and then there’s a two-page pdf report to read that's packed with figures. For an elite athlete, that’s an investment of time that you can make everyday – and you’ve probably got a trainer to interpret the results for you. But what’s the value to an amateur?

The peak athletic event of my week is my local park run but then I’m just about as far from being an elite athlete as one can be. You might be closer but, I’m guessing, not quite there. Yet. To us non-elite amateurs, what’s the value of that five-second interaction with digital technology, assuming you don’t have your own PhD in human biology?

It’s very little unless it fits into the story of your progression towards your fitness goals. That's the position your non-IT-elite board are in: a five-second compute on the magical boxes you deploy in your organisation produce reports that, to them, mean nothing unless they can be made to fit into your organisation's progression towards the goals they set. That means you (and your team) creating narratives for the board.

Storytelling has always been a key to an organisation’s success. Storytelling upwards is sometimes the key to the best organisational use of IT.

Of course, they don't have to begin ‘Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away...’

I think I hear my wife calling...