The Challenges With a Tech-Obsessed CEO

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I caught up with one of my old friends last week who had taken a new CIO gig about a year ago. At his previous company, his bosses (first the CFO and then the CEO) were primarily focused on managing IT as a cost of doing business, but his new boss is a little different.

“I was so excited to work for a CEO who believed technology could transform businesses – and our business specifically,” he started, with a little hesitation in his voice. “But, it isn’t all rainbows and unicorns over here. He cares a lot about what we are doing, and sometimes it feels like too much.”

He shared a typical day. His boss pops by regularly with some idea he wants to discuss – often inspired by his entrepreneurial friends in Silicon Valley. He sends articles on technology trends and what tech companies are doing. He constantly questions my friend about whether they are working on the right things from a technology perspective and always pushes back on what they are spending on legacy technology compared to start ups. Every other week he asks how they are going to innovate faster.

“While it’s great that my company is willing to invest in technology, I secretly long for the days when everyone stayed out of my hair. It is so hard to get anything done around here!”

Most IT leaders would prefer to have my friend’s tech-obsessed CEO over the other extreme, but my friend reminded me that it does introduce new challenges. Instead of making a case for all the possibilities technology can bring, he has to spend his time justifying basic IT support.

One of the jobs of a CIO or CTO is to educate his or her CEO and executive team on how to invest in technology. Traditionally, that has involved justifying the value of IT to the business, but with a tech-obsessed CEO, it may involve more education around things like the hype curve and which technologies make the most sense in which industries. My friend has his work cut out for him, but I think he’d still take his tech-obsessed CEO over his previous bosses.

 

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