Strategic CIO // Executive Insights & Innovation
Commentary
12/4/2008
05:16 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
Commentary
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'The CIO Needs To Reapply For His Job'

Your CEO tells you your reapplication process begins immediately with the question, "To capitalize on the current market, what changes should we make to our business model?" Can you give a riveting answer, or will the interview be rather brief? A punchy article from across the pond raises these and more great questions.

Your CEO tells you your reapplication process begins immediately with the question, "To capitalize on the current market, what changes should we make to our business model?" Can you give a riveting answer, or will the interview be rather brief? A punchy article from across the pond raises these and more great questions.Published Wednesday in the Financial Times under the headline "Find a CIO who cares about share price," the piece comes from IT-leadership consultant Ade McCormack, who notes ominously "But I suspect most CEOs have more trust in their new nonexecutive sorcerer than their head of IT." Now, before you slam the "delete" key, stick with this -- McCormack speaks bluntly but offers some valuable insights.

Aiming his comments at CEOs, McCormack's column explores the soft but indispensable issue of trust, and specifically whether most CIOs know if they have it and, if not, how to get it:

"This is understandable given that many CIOs don't appreciate that perception of trust is more important than the actual article in corporate matters.

To build trust you need to build brand, and this is not an IT department strength.

However, we should not overlook someone just because they do not see public relations as top priority. A CIO has the potential to deliver great business efficiencies."

McCormack suggests that CEOs looking to establish whether such trust can exist with the CIO should begin this theoretical reapplication interview with three questions, and the one I noted at the top of this post is actually the third of those three. Here are the first two he proposes:

  • "What is our share price today?"

  • "What changes would you make to the way IT engages with the business to ensure it remains a going concern?"
  • Now, I have little doubt many CIOs could do a pretty good job with those three questions -- but McCormack points out an even bigger challenge than the questions themselves is the looming perception that CIOs are disconnected from the realities of the business: customers, operations, market dynamics, product trends, and such. He describes that black cloud of doubt this way:

    "So the leap of faith I am asking of chief executives is to assume their technology head is trustworthy and has the organization's best interests at heart.

    This will test your leadership mettle, as such a suggestion is likely to meet resistance from boardroom colleagues, many of whom will express concern, given that the CIO spends most of his time seemingly 'speaking in tongues'."

    To repeat a theme you've heard in this blog before and will no doubt continue to hear until the misperceptions and mistrusts have been buried, this is a battle that, fair or not, CIOs must recognize and pursue aggressively. In that effort, exercises such as this imaginary reapplication for a job you already have can't be brushed off as demeaning or insulting -- instead, they are opportunities for you and your peers to take the initiative in burying an ugly stereotype that will otherwise continue to hamper your company, your team, and your career.

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