The other day, an old colleague was sharing some of his challenges with his new organization. He has a fair amount of experience in IT at a variety of places, and has been pulled into several IT related projects even though he is not working within the IT department. He shared that the CIO, who is a peer of his, is very resistant to sharing information about IT projects and resources. This friend of mine is frustrated because he thinks they need to look at reprioritizing some of the IT spend, or adding additional resources, but he doesn’t have the information to help make good decisions. He gets the feeling the CIO wants to be seen as a peer, and feels micromanaged when asked questions.

I think it made him feel better when I told him that I hear similar feedback from people in lots of different types of organizations. But it left me wondering: why are some CIOs so resistant to opening the kimono? Or are they? Is it perception or is it reality?

I wonder what this CIO would say if given the opportunity to defend himself. Let’s assume it is just perception: this CIO is very willing to share information and may even think he is effectively sharing. Perhaps he is just too busy to get into the minutia of every project or every decision about which someone asks. Perhaps he is publishing all this information somewhere (say an internet, or in a monthly report) and people aren’t reading it.

Worse yet, what if it is reality? This would mean that the CIO is deliberately hiding information. He could be worried about his job – what if his business partners see what a mess things are? Or perhaps he thinks he retains control and power if he holds onto information and requires all decisions to route through him.

I have to believe that most CIOs (at least the ones I know) are believers in transparency, although some may prioritize information sharing higher than others. Every IT organization, though, needs to be constantly reviewing their communication around the organization so that they are building the support they need. They should be getting information out through multiple mediums, engaging business partners in IT decisions, and regularly meeting with and periodically surveying their business partners to see how they can improve.