The methodology used by Volkswagen for taking IS decisions in the case study is totally democratic and has an essence of inclusiveness at its core. In retrospection my previous organization, a technology-consulting firm, had a totally different take on making decisions with respect to information systems. Even though, I mostly concur with the approach of Mr. Matulovic of inclusiveness, I feel that there should have been more power entrusted in the CIO to take the final call without much of pressure.
Large companies like Volkswagen have multiple business units and are structurally complex. Decisions pertaining to information systems tend to be inter-related and problems don’t exist in isolation. Thus taking everyone’s opinion brings better visibility of the exact situation the organization is facing. For instance in my previous organization, the helpdesk system that is used to resolve issues wasn’t up to the mark. The system was built with predefined queries that were collected amongst the most asked queries. However, if an employee had to ask a query that was not amongst the prepopulated ones then his query had to be in a new subcategory altogether. The information systems team had built the system with the best intentions to interpret the end users in mind however if they had connected with different departments within the organization and not acted in isolation then they would have a better coverage of all the scenarios which could have arose. Inclusiveness is very important.
In Volkswagen each executive had the right to opine about their projects that allowed them to be biased. The CIO didn’t have enough power to take decisions without being bogged down. This can be a dangerous situation if you try to please everyone as one often forgets the end goal of the organization. For instance in a tech company I followed I knew that the SAP portfolio was assigned to one of the VP’s. He was adamant on the allocation of expenditure of training and development of SAP. The company’s strategic vision was to grow in media and advertising and not SAP. But, funding was allocated to placate him. Hence, too much pressure on the CIO makes him act contrary to the vision of the company.
The case talks about how the IT staff was understaffed initially and how the lack of knowledge of business in IT eventually was a major concern. Without the knowledge of business it is very difficult to mirror business requirements in information systems. As it is said that information systems follow communication patterns within a company. Someone without strong knowledge of workings and patterns of a company even though having sound technical knowledge will generally find it difficult to take strategic IS decisions. Mr. Matulovic with his knowledge of business even with a lesser technical background adopted policies that in favor of the company initially.
I would conclude by saying that a capable CIO should have the required power to prioritize policies. The CIO should have the power to prioritize projects even if they need extra provisioning of funding but the projects are in line with company’s long-term goals. Vice versa the CIO should also have the power to be conservative on projects and push them back when he feels there isn’t much scope of growth for the company in the long term.