My favorite ice-breaker in a business meeting came from a chief information officer (CIO) at a German media company. On our first meeting, I had barely introduced myself and my colleagues when he growled, "I don't know why I bought your software." Shareholders don't like to hear that company executives don't know why funds are spent. The Financial Times once stated that there would be two types of CIOs in the future—the ones who reduce costs and others who go a step further to innovate in their company's businesses. After this meeting, I thought they should have added a third type—the one who has no imagination, no vision, and soon no job.

Is this the CIO you want in charge of assessing your business strengths and weaknesses and making recommendations on how IT infrastructure supports innovation in your organization? Most think not. As a business owner, employee, or shareholder, you want the forward-thinking CIO who views IT infrastructure as your stealth bomber and road warrior rolled into one. You want a team of dedicated professionals who think a Basic and outdated IT infrastructure is for wimps and fiscally irresponsible. The goal is Rationalized or Dynamic—anything else doesn't make business sense and is unacceptable.

Not all IT projects need to focus on total change at once. Sometimes identifying a few capabilities to start with might be the right choices. An IT road map can engineer a one-time technology boost that allows a firm to catch ...

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