01 Apr 2009
New Book Looks at the Life of a CIO
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The Adventures of
an IT Leader

BOSTON — The day-to-day challenges faced by the average chief information officer (CIO) are not usually the stuff of drama. But they are the essence of The Adventures of an IT Leader (Harvard Business Press), a new book by Harvard Business School Associate Professor Robert Austin, Professor Emeritus Richard Nolan, and their colleague Shannon O'Donnell. Enter Jim Barton, the new CIO of a fictional business called IVK Corporation. Barton and IVK are the creation of the authors - and his story provides a practical yet entertaining look at the issues facing an IT leader.

Based on the authors' years of first-hand experience with diverse companies, the story begins as the IVK Corporation struggles to recover from a period of slowing growth and falling stock prices. An aggressive CEO handpicks Barton to be CIO - even though Barton has no background in IT.

When Barton first takes the reins, he must quickly learn to navigate the strange new world of information technology, while meeting the high expectations of the CEO, the board of directors, and his staff. What he, along with the reader, learns in his first year on the job clearly illustrates why the role of CIO is the most volatile, high-turnover job in business. The Adventures of an IT Leader follows Barton's progress as he discovers what effective IT Management is all about, deals with the everyday challenges of the job, responds to major crises, and remakes the company's technology capabilities into a vital strategic asset.

According to the authors, the book "is written for IT managers, potential IT managers, those working closely with IT managers, those who want to understand how to use their IT department to greater effect, and those who are simply curious. While the book is useful and (we hope) interesting to an individual reader, we've also designed it to be the focus of discussion."

The Adventures of an IT Leader can be read like a novel from beginning to end or treated as a series of case studies. A section titled "Ways of Using This Book" suggests chapters that address specific topics, while the authors' questions at the end of each chapter help readers reflect on issues raised in the text.

"Ever wonder what a CIO's life is really like? Read this engaging 'novel' to understand the experience of an IT executive," said Eric Schmidt, chairman of the board and CEO of Google, Inc.

About the Authors

Robert Austin is a professor of managing creativity and innovation at Copenhagen Business School and an associate professor of technology and operations management at Harvard Business School. He chairs the HBS Executive Education program for chief information officers and is coauthor of the leading MBA textbook on IT management. Before becoming a professor, Austin was an IT manager at a major international corporation. He has written more than one hundred published papers, articles, and cases, as well as several other books, some of which have received international awards. He is active on editorial and advisory boards for numerous academic organizations and companies.

Richard Nolan is a professor at the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington in Seattle and a professor emeritus at Harvard Business School. He teaches and researches strategic and execution issues on IT leadership. Nolan is active in helping CIOs, senior managers, and boards of directors more effectively apply information resources in their businesses. During a fourteen-year interim period in his career at the Harvard Business School, he cofounded and chaired Nolan, Norton, & Co., a pioneering strategic IT consulting firm, which was later merged with KPMG. He has been a part of the IT industry for more than forty years as a professor, consultant, and practicing manager.

Shannon O'Donnell is a Ph.D. fellow at Copenhagen Business School, where she was previously a visiting researcher at its Centre for Art and Leadership. Her research focuses on innovation in creative industries and the role of technology in collaboration and innovation. She is also a consultant with Cutter Consortium's Innovation and Enterprise Agility practice. Previously, O'Donnell was a research associate at the Foster School of Business and Harvard Business School, where she coauthored several HBS cases. She was formerly Resident Director and Dramaturg at People's Light and Theatre, an internationally regarded regional theater company outside Philadelphia.