Which CIOs Get Respect

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This post on Information Week today, Why CIOs Get No Respect, is so on target, it made me giggle a couple of times. I really like Evans’ first point, about CIOs’ failure to engage with the customer. Customer in IT speak usually means the internal client; there is too little focus on what IT calls the “end customer”, and that focus is the clearest shortcut to driving value from IT. Evans’ third point is the root of it all, that CIOs aren’t getting across their contribution to business value. I believe some of this is perception, not reality, and could be fixed through better, clearer communication.

My perspective comes primarily from being brought in as a consultant, often by the CIO, to run an IT strategy project that involves interviewing many of the CIOs peers, superiors and subordinates. Either I’m really good at getting people to share their true feelings, or they will share their true feelings with anyone, because these executives usually give me an earful of what they think about IT and its leader.

I’ve definitely heard my fair share of complaining about IT leadership, during these interviews and anytime I tell a new contact what it is I do for a living. But I’d like to focus on the positive, those CIOs who are respected and valued by their peers. Broadly, they fall into two categories:

  1. The true business executive, who is able to apply technology strategically and communicate its value across the company. This post does a great job identifying the success factors of these types of CIOs: they understand and are focused on their (end) customers, they drive and communicate business value, and they make big changes. The interesting thing is that these CIOs have a far from perfect record of delivering on time or on budget, but their communication up front and through the process is so good, their peers are very forgiving.
  2. The responsive, capable head of IT in a company that does not use IT strategically. There are companies out there that simply don’t need a CIO “sitting at the table”. This head of IT, who probably doesn’t hold a CIO title, knows his or her position and has enough business sense to realize his or her primary job is to minimize spend so that investments can be made elsewhere.

And if you want a giggle, read the end of the article for Evans’ comments on the “media lunacy”. I do have to agree that CIOs have been given a bad rap, more than other professions, by the media.

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