I was taking with one of my friends earlier this week about the placement of the Chief Strategy Officer (CSO) in his very large organization. I was initially surprised that she (the CSO) doesn’t report to the CEO, but instead into the COO. But once my friend explained that this particular executive is more focused on rolling out common processes and standards across their enterprise than she is focused on developing a strategic vision and executing strategic initiatives, it made more sense. Apparently all the visioning and even strategic execution is happening in pockets throughout the rest of the organization, and the people doing those kinds of activities stay very far away from this CSO.
So really, this particular executive just has an inappropriate title, a title that gives professionals focused on strategy a bad name, since expectations are set and not met. I’ve got to say, I don’t really see a true strategy officer reporting anywhere but directly to the CEO. Yes, a strategic program director or transformation officer could report to the COO if the Ops group is the central group that drives change through the enterprise. But the person or group responsible for visioning needs to have both the visibility and the autonomy to do that effectively. And that likely requires being outside of Operations.
So I got to thinking about what this all means for a technology organization within the larger enterprise. Specifically, IT or technology organizations with hundreds of people, can justify a role focused on strategy for their group. And CIOs sometimes wonder where it should live, especially if it doesn’t justify its own direct report to the CIO. Once again, I’d be very hesitant to lump it into any group more focused on execution (i.e. PMO, Operations, Development). It could be combined with performance management (i.e. organizational scorecards, not HR performance). The other likely place to put it is with the architecture group, assuming the architecture group is operating strategically, setting an overall vision, versus just defining standard technologies and processes.