Why do CIOs hire IT strategy consultants?

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“Isn’t that their job?” asked one of my husband’s relatives at a recent family reunion.  They were a bit flabbergasted that we had a whole business focused on helping CIOs do their strategic work.  In case anyone else out there is wondering, I thought I’d share some of the reasons CIOs hire us:

Reason 1:  Time
Most of our clients are so busy keeping their businesses going that they don’t have enough dedicated time to sit back and think about their strategy or how to communicate it.  Whether a CIO has vague ideas or more fully formed thoughts, getting them flushed out and communicated takes serious dedicated time.
Reason 2:  Sounding Board
Even if the CIO has time to work on strategy, his leadership team rarely has enough time to help.  In some cases, they do not really have the capability or mindset to help either.  It is hard to do strategy alone; people need a good sounding board.  Different perspectives go a long way to improving or just solidifying one’s strategy.  It is a huge help to work through the strategy with other people who have been through it before.
Reason 3:  Process
To get the right focus from the IT leadership team and the business stakeholders, a fast, well run process is imperative.  The right process helps gather the best ideas and gain buy-in from stakeholders.  This is not an easy thing for a CIO to juggle on top of their regular duties, so having someone dedicated and focused really helps.

Reason 4:  Credibility
At most organizations, consultants bring credibility to the process, especially when combined with the internal perspectives.  Other executives may look at a plan brought together by the CIO alone as potentially self serving or selectively focused, but with the backing of a reputable consultancy the right plan has more ground to stand on and will go farther in the long run.
CIOs who hire IT strategy consultants are not doing so because they lack experience or knowledge (or because they are lazy!), it is because of their experience and knowledge that they know just how important and necessary it is to hire outside help.

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