What are your thoughts on how tech-led companies are merging IT and Engineering functions under a single leader? What are the pros and cons of doing so?

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CIO in Software, 2 - 10 employees
The combination of two extremely convergent areas working under the leadership of the same leader, in my view, will only have positive points. Current technology using IOT devices, once only used by engineers from different IT areas, has become common between both areas. Artificial intelligence, machine learning are other junction points that will also bring fundamental gains to this cooperation on the same direction.
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CIO and Startup Advisor in Software, 10,001+ employees

Agreed re: benefits. In fact, I feel that this is the primary way that the IT organization can drive its own transformation and deliver more business value. What do you feel is the first step in a successful transformation towards such a model? What are the pitfalls?

CTO in Software, 11 - 50 employees
I see this as a good thing, as long as this new leader has strong knowledge in both areas (OT and IT) which is not something easy to find.
3 Replies
CIO and Startup Advisor in Software, 10,001+ employees

Interesting point, Mario. So what are some of the areas that a “traditional” CIO has to get up to speed on?

CTO in Software, 11 - 50 employees

Hi {{ 5a5ed50cd36e1d61d859208e }} , I would say: SCADA, Historian, MES, industrial network and protocols and fundamentals of PLC. Some basic knowledge on electronics would also help. But not all of these necessarily at the same time, but at least the ones that are used in the company. These kind of systems usually have a central and state-full architecture. Their database also have specific needs, usually a time s-series database that can handle historical data with real time data at the same time on charts and predictions (these are called historians).

CTO in Software, 11 - 50 employees

Just to clarify my answer. My views are between OT and IT, when industrial automation and IT converge.

Sr VP Cyber Intelligence Initiative, 11 - 50 employees
The question is a good one, but the idea is not. I actually survived (barely) this kind of activity at Symantec. After 6 months they finally realized exactly how stupid this was and then had to reverse everything that they had put into motion. Management may think that this is a good way to save having one more ‘direct report’ – translated that means they want to save the money.  In reality, it will cost them more, because under that single Tech Leader you will have to have a Chief Engineer and a Chief Information Officer. It should also be pointed out to the genius who wants to implement this that the two functions are TOTALLY different.  Engineering is product related and Information Technology is operations related.  Engineering’s concern is the voice of the customer and so they have a close relationship with Marketing/sales.  Information Technology’s concern is making the business run smoothly across the entire organization (so when revenue comes through the door, how is it to be recognized, or when an order is received or cancelled, how will that be handled).  So you can see, as I reiterate, the two functions are night and day.
Board Member, Former CIO in Software, 10,001+ employees
Great question, and I have seen both. My world of Facebook started with IT being part of an engineering function and then it wasn't and then it was. Even there, we went through all three transitions. Let's start with the cons.   Why you don't want to do this - IT and engineering in technology companies really have very different thesis. The engineering thesis is very much about building a product that is of value, that is scalable, that is in some cases, many cases is reliable, that can do things that people have not experienced before. That requires a mindset of allowing people to be creative, to think differently and to really be focused on the technology. Whereas, IT often involves other things which don't really benefit from that mindset. Starting with the basics securing the environment, making sure the employees have productive systems, that they have a stable network, that they have all the infrastructure that they need. Often times these companies go through a lot of acquisitions so there are technology issues around that. These theses, even though they're both technical, have really different objectives. Usually, if you put them together in the same organizations, one of those objectives starves in favor of the other. That can lead to ineffectiveness in the organization. That's one of the reasons I'd say you don't wanna do this. Let's go to the other way, what are the pros. When you have a company like Facebook, Google, Salesforce, Twitter, Pinterest, or Pure Storage. All of these are companies that differentiate themselves based on technology. For them to have internal systems that are somehow second class or ineffective or not as strong technically as the product that they are building, it's almost like saying okay I'm a designer, I make really fancy clothes but I'm going to show up in shorts and a T-shirt. I'm not going to put or create an impression for my customers that gives them confidence in my product. By combining the IT organization and the engineering organization you create the ability for the IT organization to be built and run with the same level of quality that the engineering organization is. The second benefit is that often times, there's a need to connect both the internal view of things and the external view of things. Just take Facebook with its two billion users and six million advertisers. It has many, many customers. For it's internal organization whether that's sales or marketing to have a suboptimal or disconnected view of those digital assets only hurts the business. By combining engineering and IT, you make it a lot easier to have a single architectural view of how information should flow both externally and internally. At the end of the day, I think, this comes down to leadership though. Where does the IT organization report, will they get their support both financially but also the attention and focus that it needs. That may or may not be with the engineering organization. I think it's more dependent on the leaders of the company that it is on.
Personally I have a bias for having IT be part of engineering. As Woven gets larger I would rather have my IT organization exist within engineering. I also would make sure that we have a leadership that understands and respects both sides of things. As long as that exists in a cooperation I can see that being successful.
CTO in Software, 11 - 50 employees
I don't agree that the roles of CIO and CTO should be merged as something will undoubtedly suffer as a result. Instead they should work in a highly collaborative manner to share learnings, technology, and of course source code between the 2 functions. The "line of demarcation" is external products/services being owned by the CTO and internal products/services being owned by the CIO, with the latter driving the transformation from traditional IT functions to a more engineering mindset and "DT - Digital Technology".
CIO and Startup Advisor in Software, 10,001+ employees
Dean, Tim and Mike - thanks for the elaborate responses.

Any others care to join in this conversation?

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