CIOs Uncensored: Tech-Savvy Execs Are A CIO's Best Friend - InformationWeek

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IT Leadership // Team Building & Staffing
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4/3/2008
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CIOs Uncensored: Tech-Savvy Execs Are A CIO's Best Friend

Embrace your technically astute brothers and sisters--but set limitations.

Tech-savvy executives are a good thing for the CIO. They help sanction and validate business technology projects. They also help nonsavvy executives get comfortable with technology by endorsing its business value, rather than the CIO trying to carry that message all alone.

Lockton, where I'm CIO, has many such tech-savvy people. These executives let me work out the IT plan and the details, and also help me with managing technology expectations within the business. I embrace tech-savvy colleagues, and so should you. If you have people who are interested and knowledgeable about what you do, why not bring them closer and enhance their value to you and your success?

It's a partnership forged around mutual respect, trust, and, hopefully, a successful track record to point to. But there are limitations: If your CEO wants to hash out the merits of Linux versus Windows Server, you may have a problem.

As for less-technically-astute individuals, the CIO has the responsibility to educate and help bring them along. Clear communication and a good message are key to making sure no one is left behind. If your message to less-tech-savvy executives always is seen as no, you risk being viewed as a barrier rather than a business advocate. A good CIO will find the right balance of technical progress and involvement of others while keeping the company safe from the classic traps and risks we know from experience.

Setting technology expectations is very important. If you know the good points and the limitations of technology, why wouldn't you share these with everyone? It's a bit like your doctor reminding you, "This may sting a little."

As far as the new generation of technology users is concerned, a good CIO is ready for them. While the business may not support this generation's entire wish list, we're wise to recognize and take advantage of their warm embrace of technology, as well as the emerging rules and openness around social interaction. After all, this next generation of employees, managers, and customers will redefine the business rules, too!

To be successful you need to have an open channel to all of them. As I say to my colleagues, the biggest worry is when they stop calling. I also believe that, to coin a phrase, "our value to the business and success in execution is best told by others." Those comments can come from any group at any time. I always try to think, what are they telling others about me?

As far as Lockton is concerned, I have a charter to keep the company properly positioned technologically without venturing out on the bleeding edge. Lockton has a good balance of tech-savvy executives who have high expectations but also grant my team the autonomy and space to get the job done.

One of my favorite Lockton slogans is, "We may make mistakes--but we won't make them for long." That one phrase speaks to our entrepreneurial spirit and our commitment to service, which only enhance my ability to support Lockton and, ultimately, our clients.

David Robinson is the CIO of Lockton, the world's largest privately owned independent insurance broker. Share your thoughts at our blog, CIOs Uncensored.

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