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As a long time participant in the computing industry and the founder of four different software companies, I am intimately acquainted with the challenge of proving value. Whether it's for our boss, investors, customers, partners, or our spouse, we are constantly being asked to prove our worth.

It's no different for today's CIO. Until recently, a CIO's value was proven by their level of technical knowledge and their ability to oversee technology investment and manage the IT organization. Now, the value that a CIO is expected to deliver has shifted.

Managing and communicating value and providing tangible evidence that IT can help grow business, not just support it, was at the top of the list in the Meta Group study entitled "Top CIO Issues for 2005." Business and IT alignment was the second concern.

According to Bobby Cameron, principal of the CIO Group, Forrester Research, supporting business innovation and business growth are two of the top issues facing CIOs in 2005. To that end, he said that IT organizations need to employ cross-organizational business models that provide incremental value.

In Jan 2005, SearchCIO.com cited a survey of roughly 1000 Deloitte practitioners worldwide. The results of that survey were that providing business value to the company and delivering business integration were two of the top four challenges CIO's were facing in 2005.

Clearly, demonstrating that IT delivers business value is a top priority for 2005 — a CIO's job is dependent on it. This requires aligning IT with the business strategy of your company and can be achieved by collaborating with business leaders to prioritize assets and execute projects in areas that produce the highest return.

But delivering business value with applications using traditional development and integration methods is extremely difficult. My career has revolved around solving technical challenges to create business value. In the '80's I founded Informix, one of the first relational database management systems (RDBMS). Using SQL as the foundation, we made it possible to organize related data into a particular application and opened the door for a revolution in enterprise computing. But as soon as there were two different databases, there were database silos, a problem we still deal with today.

My next venture was co-founding The Vantive Corporation, one of the first customer support applications. Vantive also pioneered the meta data-defined, multi-tier architecture that became the chosen approach for all new enterprise applications. Companies like PeopleSoft, SAP, and Siebel all migrated to this architecture establishing the packaged applications industry.


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