The spectacular CIO you suss out in about 90 seconds. She/he comes into the room (and 85% of the time it is a ‘he’ with CIOs) and there is no condescending, no need to mark the trees and bushes before sitting down. The CIOs one usually meets have been around for a while, and 3/4 of the time do not have a business degree or MBA. The CIO that is devoted to making a difference in the business is inclusive and likes people in the room who are as smart or smarter than themselves. There is some easy joking. The others are not afraid of the arbitrary or rule by fiat.
Meetings start with the normal scuttlebutt*, but in a good way – what is happening? How are people feeling? What is working and not working? Where are we seeing roadblocks or potential problems?
Then the difference between the good CIO and spectacular CIO kicks in: the direction and tenure of the conversation. There will always be the conversations about security, outages, bandwidth, costs, urgent network and website and tools issues – and they are there on the table but they are not the order of the day. The true direction of the meetings and the agenda overall is around what an economist would think of as the ‘demand-side’ of the business. It would look at the CEOs core goals to grow the business, and it would look at the IT projects around people, process and technology that relate to these goals.
“How are we doing on our customer-facing initiatives?
How do you know?
Do we have the right people in place?
Looking at our key metrics for success in reaching a new audience, deepening profitable relationships and retaining customers, how are we doing with each of these?
What are the urgent technology initiatives that we have overlooked?
That we have not invested enough time or thought or money in?
How are our key competitors responding to these same opportunities and threats?”
Do these questions sound familiar? If they do, you are very fortunate, because this is IT harnessed to business success and you are at the center of great things. If instead you are sitting listening to a grumpy autocrat scrapping for turf, polish up your skills and LinkedIn connections. Unless you have closet masochistic tendencies, in which case consider yourself at home.
(* If you sail or are into nautical references, scuttlebutt is a term that came from sailors on larger ships who would put holes [they ‘scuttled/cut holes in] in a cask [AKA a ‘butt]of fresh water to access it more easily. The cask, or butt, was a logical place to gather and exchange gossip – like a watercooler in the ’60s-’70s)
CEOs and Boards of Director are looking to shift away from the old CIO type who has a ‘supply-side’ mentality and are actively recruiting for the ‘demand-side mindest’ in every key industry, including Government and Higher Education.
When you find one of these dynamic CIOs, talk them up! They are a part of the great things happening with CRM projects, Big Data initiatives, and the move to value-based relationships with customers and shareholders.
Thanks for sharing your insights about the great CIOs you are seeing!
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