Sometimes a CIO is most effective when someone else does his job. At least that's the idea Herman Nell is tinkering with. Nell, the CIO of $204 million Fiskars Brands Inc., a Madison, Wis.-based manufacturer of kitchen and garden tools, has been struggling to better align his IT systems with business objectives. Rather than spend hours meeting with advisory boards hashing out business processes, he recently decided to turn IT budgeting over to the business unit leaders themselves. Every month representatives of garden, school, crafts and other units meet with manufacturing, operations and other groups to discuss their IT needs. "They decide what and how they want to spend and negotiate with each other," says Nell. IT staff then advise the group on the potential consequences and impacts of their decisions.
Unfortunately, Nell doesn't expect to spend afternoons on the golf course anytime soon. The group will likely need plenty of guidance as it begins this work and continuing feedback as it moves along. But if he's successful, Nell hopes that it will ultimately lead to smarter IT spending and more support from business unit leaders. By using his resources more effectively, Nell says he may be able to free up more resources for projects that can help boost revenues. That's a cut any CIO would like to make.