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"I tell my folks the example of someone who runs a music store. If you go to the shop, the music guy knows the acoustic guitar, the electric guitar, the piano. He can play all those instruments -- but that doesn't make him Eric Clapton. I tell them I'm Eric Clapton. I do this gig for a living. I can go play with any guitar you give me, I can go do this at any company. I may not know the difference in detail between every acoustic guitar or electric guitar, but I can still play Layla and you can't."
Not every CIO has to contend with end users who are engineers, but many face the same skepticism that IT can drive business growth. "You have to [assert yourself] without arrogance, but with some confidence and some sense of humor," Iyer says.
For years IT has wallowed in the shadow of Nicolas Carr's divisive 2003 Harvard Business Review article, "IT Doesn't Matter," which, in asserting that IT investments fail to provide companies with a strategic advantage, seemed to diminish the talents of IT.
Today, there's an opportunity for IT to reclaim its role as a trusted adviser on technology and play an active role in driving innovation, Mann says. Just about every business today depends greatly on technology, and if a company isn't getting the most out of technology, it won't succeed.
Technologies such as cloud, mobile and social can highlight IT's potential for innovation, Mann says. "This makes IT not just relevant again, but important."
Ann Bednarz covers IT careers, outsourcing and Internet culture for Network World. Follow Ann on Twitter at @annbednarz and check out her blog, Occupational Hazards. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.
Read more about infrastructure management in Network World's Infrastructure Management section.