Frederic Wohlwend wurde für seine Arbeit als CIO bei Merck mit dem SWISS CIO AWARD ausgezeichnet – Im Gespräch: Warum Business-IT-Alignment zu wenig ist …

by Michael Ghezzo

How does the CIO contribute to the company’s success?
Frederic Wohlwend: In order to compete in the marketplace, companies do not need an “IT Strategy”, they need a “Business strategy smartly-enabled by technology” which I call a “Digital Business Strategy”; this goes far beyond a classical “Business & IT Alignment” and today, just having an “IT answer to the Business goals”, is no more enough; we have to merge Information Technology with Business Operating Models to create new “Digital Capabilities” in order to create differentiation for true competitive advantage. In my opinion, the success of any company depends on its “Digital Strategy” and the CIO is today “THE” Architect of its design and implementation. There is no choice, our Boards are expecting this from us, we have to embrace this mission or leave it.
You say “it´s time for the CIO to become CIO – What difference can he make?
Frederic Wohlwend: Most of the executives in charge of IT in global corporations are proud of their CIO title; but there is a difference between being a “Head of IT” and being a “Chief Information Officer”; a CIO has to provide an impact on the business strategy realization (like any COO, CFO or CEO) or accept to remain a Head of IT. To do so, we can’t just run IT operations and IT support, or even deliver what the business units are asking us to deliver; a CIO must focus on the “Enterprise” as a whole and play a role beyond the “good internal service provider”. We can make it as per the board’s expectations and it is now (or never) about time for whoever has a CIO title to perform at the CIO level.
What are the qualifications he needs?
Frederic Wohlwend:

A CIO is amongst the executives, the one who requires the most diverse set of skills; I would retain 3 key essential ones:

a) passion about the company’s business,
b) passion about continuous improvement,
c) passion about people.

The rest is a consequence of the above.

Why is the CIO AWARD important?
Frederic Wohlwend: Receiving such an Award is extremely important to reinforce the credibility of the IT Function in our organisation; but regardless of the outcome, the most important part of the CIO Award for me lies in the preparation of its application; while writing down the various sections, I realized rapidly (with a good sense of pride) everything my team had already implemented and how this was currently bringing value to our company; however and despite all these good things, I also realized how immense the opportunities for improvement were ahead of me. The competition should be seen mainly as a race against oneself as striving for excellence is the best way to learn and progress; the CIO Award represents for me as an excellent tool to help CIOs growing and to push overall our industry forward.  

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