Strategic CIO // Executive Insights & Innovation
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1/29/2009
08:42 AM
Bob Evans
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Readers Talk Back On 'What CEOs Want From CIOs'

My recent post on "What CEOs Want From CIOs" triggered some insightful responses from readers, including how one CIO forged a career-changing relationship with the CEO; the business value CEOs perceive when CIOs leverage existing systems with new, expansive technologies; four tips from a headhunter on how CIO candidates can best-position themselves to CEOs; and why a new CIO peer-level grou

My recent post on "What CEOs Want From CIOs" triggered some insightful responses from readers, including how one CIO forged a career-changing relationship with the CEO; the business value CEOs perceive when CIOs leverage existing systems with new, expansive technologies; four tips from a headhunter on how CIO candidates can best-position themselves to CEOs; and why a new CIO peer-level group thinks my list is too broad.The CIO who connected well with the CEO works at a busy, medium-sized hospital in California and offered this perspective on how the complex range of responsibilities for a CIO can be made more manageable via that strong relationship:

"Unfortunately, CIOs are expected to (not just from the CEO but also the rest of the executive team members) speak everyone's language and understand everyone's needs as well as be able to sort out their needs and wants so they fit togehter with the initial strategic plan, At the same time we need to be able to break the rules and make something happen regardless of previous plans and strategies. To accomplish these types of expectations successfully, I have managed to develop such a tight relationship with my CEO that [it] allows me to not only help with the decisions that are made for the hospital but also to carry out some of them as part of my responsibilities outside of the CIO realm, this has given me a great deal of exposure to the issues that my peers face and has given me a better understanding of their reasoning behind their requests. I am now able to do a better job because I am fully involved in every aspect of running our hospital from the Engineering side to the grounds and security and all of the other operational areas. If have one recommendation to all CIOs, that is to "get involved and do not reject any opportunities to learn what your peers are doing, it will make you a better CIO and perhaps prepare you for a COO or CEO position in the future."

The advice on using new technologies to extend the capabilities of existing infrastructure came from the CEO of an IT vendor who says his insight could be helpful because he's able to view the CIO role from two perspectives: as a CEO to his own CIO executive, and as an IT vendor to its primary customer target:

"In this era where we're seeing a much faster pace for technology innovation and evolution, there will likely be resistance to try something too new, even if the promise is for increased productivity, better customer relations, and faster customer service. But CIOs can accomplish all this and become heroes to both CEOs and the employees they serve by embracing the new technologies that harness the best elements of their existing investments. For example, custom mobile applications that can perform specific tasks that leverage one or more legacy back-office system, built for use on tried and true (and perhaps already deployed) BlackBerry or Windows Mobile handsets, can greatly enhance both the amount and speed of productivity and bring employees closer to customers. I'm seeing more and more such platforms where existing IT investments can be made “new” again by extending their capabilities. And in this economic environment, modest expenditures that bring new life to old software will be hailed as quite an achievement."

For CIO job candidates facing interviews with CEOs, executive searcher Judy Homer offers four suggestions on the types of business-value "evidence" those CEOs are looking for:

"As the President of a search firm that has been sourcing CIOs for companies ranging in size from startups to Fortune 50 for over 25 years, it is my experience that the successful candidates for our CIO positions must be able to document their value to their current and past companies. During their interviews they are asked to provide metrics and concrete examples of: 1. How they have contributed to their companies' success and marketshare. 2. How they've increased the level of customer satisfaction and improved the efficiency of the business through the products and/or services they've delivered. 3. What their strategic plan would be for delivering value during the first 6-18 months in their new role. 4. How they've controlled the cost of delivering effective IT solutions.

Because in today's fragile economy CEOs know that success in the CIO position has a decided impact on their own success, both CIO candidates as well as incumbents must be prepared to provide viable answers to these questions or someone else will be sitting in that seat at the table."

And Dean Lane, founder of peer-exchange network Office of the CIO, said that while CIOs need to be big thinkers, they also need to stick closely to their specific missions (this is a subject I hope to discuss with Mr. Lane in greater detail in the future, and your input would be greatly appreciated):

"The experiences and encounters that we have had in the Office of the CIO are, at the 80,000-foot level, consistent with what is presented here. However, there are responsibilities mentioned that are for position descriptions other than the CIO. We have found that the lion's share of what CEOs want from CIOs during these economic times is far more focused on effectiveness and efficiencies of the IT department.

For example: 1. Create new products, and help business units do so more rapidly is the job of the CTO or Chief Engineer. Also, if the CIO is not aligned, then his Portfolio is out of whack and valuable resources (including money) will be expended on the wrong thing."

Thanks to all who offered comments and feedback, and we look forward to ongoing discussions on this and anything else that interests you.

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