The Chief Capabilities Officer

Suzandiese   Thome
Suzandiese Thome Managing Principal, Interdual Consultoria Read Author Bio || Read All Articles by Suzandiese Thome

For almost one year I had been looking for a term to describe the "CIO that gets it," and during the last session of the Building Business Capability Conference 2010[1] in Washington DC last October, it finally dawned on me….

At the end of the conference, Ronald G. Ross (Co-Founder & Principal, Business Rule Solutions, LLC; Executive Director, Business Rules Journal) predicted that, in the future, instead of having IT departments, companies will have teams that deliver business capabilities (be they IT related or not).  The leader of this new group will be, in my opinion, the executive Richard Hunter and George Westerman call the "CIO-plus" in their book, The Real Business of IT: How CIOs Create and Communicate Value.  They describe this CIO as someone who is worried not only about technology but also about business processes, organizational change, and whatever else is required for the business to succeed.  More than just making technology work for the business, these executives "operate as a peer on the executive team, providing value beyond IT itself."[2]   I had been looking for a better title for this business-oriented CIO, and the term "Capabilities" just nailed it!

A look at what the CIO Executive Council calls the Future-State CIO®[3] reveals just how much the future CIO intends to take on.  "The Future-State CIO will not only be accountable for IT function success and business process transformation, but will adopt a more company-external focus and concentrate the majority of his/her time on using information to drive innovation and strategic advantage in pursuit of business goals."  The CIO Executive Council has divided the responsibilities of future CIOs into three areas:  systems, processes, and, ultimately, the business itself.

The first area (systems) is the day-to-day operations of IT — keeping the technology up and running.  It's about functional expertise, and it's where CIOs have focused for many years.  The second area (processes) is about looking beyond technology and focusing on what the business does.  It's about business process transformation, and it requires not only an understanding of the business but also knowing how technology must support business processes.

The third area (the business itself) is about business strategy, innovation, and competitive advantage.  Understanding technology and business processes is a powerful foundation for discussions at this level.  The Future-State CIO will have conversations with other executives (using business terms!) about where the company is headed and what it needs to get there.  His staff will then execute the projects required to build these capabilities.  The Future-State CIO will be, indeed, the Chief Capabilities Officer.

Taking on all of this responsibility is no easy task.  The Chief Capabilities Officer will only be able to achieve such high expectations by having business-oriented support staff.  The technology needs to work, of course.  But it's all a matter of having the right person for each job.  Most importantly, the people responsible for strategic planning, business process management, and technology must communicate well with each other.  Professionals in these three fields have been working in silos for the last decades.  IT personnel, especially, have been known for creating technology for the sake of technology, without due attention to strategy or process.  Building true business capabilities at the speed required in today's market, however, requires a level of integration that few companies have been able to achieve.  The good news is the communication among interested parties has been initiated and can be leveraged by organizations towards this goal.

The Business Capability Forum 2010 in Washington DC last October was a great example of the kind of collaboration that has begun and needs to happen in organizations.  Professionals interested in Business Process, Business Rules, and Business Analysis came together to share their knowledge and experiences.  The closing session of the conference revealed just how much practitioners in different fields learned from each other.  Business Process and Business Rules professionals had already tightened their relationship in previous years.  The addition of Business Analysis to last year's conference was the missing piece needed to bridge the gap between the business and IT.  Business Analysis — as defined and explained in the BABOK® 2.0 (Business Analysis Body of Knowledge)[4] — is IT's opportunity to form a new generation of professionals who can make the right connections among strategy, processes, organizational structure, and technology.

The joint effort that began at the Building Business Capability Conference 2010 could not have come at a better time — a time when the CIO community has realized just how much closer to the business IT needs to be.  I look forward to helping the Chief Capabilities Officer succeed in this challenging mission.  It's about time...


[1]  For information on the conference, visit  return to article

[2]  Richard Hunter and George Westerman, The Real Business of IT:  How CIOs Create and Communicate Value, Boston: Harvard Business Press (2009).  return to article

[3]  For more about the CIO Executive Council, visit to article

[4]  Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK), at  return to article

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Standard citation for this article:

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Suzandiese Thome , "The Chief Capabilities Officer" Business Rules Journal Vol. 12, No. 2, (Feb. 2011)

About our Contributor:

Suzandiese   Thome
Suzandiese Thome Managing Principal, Interdual Consultoria

An experienced requirements workshop facilitator, Suzandeise Thomé began her IT management consulting career at Cambridge Technology Partners (CTP), a management consulting and systems integration firm in Cambridge, MA, where she was instrumental in defining the role of the business analyst in full lifecycle software development projects. During her years at CTP, Suzandeise delivered services to clients such as Fleet Bank, Putnam Investments, Prudential, and Liberty Mutual. Upon returning to Brazil, she played several key roles within GE Capital, currently GE Money. As IT Project Manager, E-Business Leader, and New Client Integration Manager, she helped the organization implement new products and enhance Consumer Finance processes using Six Sigma methodology.

Suzandeise is the Managing Principal at Interdual Consultoria, founder and current President of the IIBA® São Paulo Chapter; she has ITIL Foundations v3 certification and is a certified ISO 20000 consultant. Suzandeise holds a B.S. in Computer Science and Engineering from MIT and a M.S. in Human-Computer Interaction from the University of Michigan. You can contact Suzandeise at

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