Posts Tagged ‘Soft skills’


Too often IT professionals are almost viewed as outsiders by others in the company.  Oh sure, everyone knows that you are on the same payroll, but there’s just something…well, different.Outsiders

Perhaps it is because IT is often behind closed doors.  Or it could be that they view IT as simply a service that could be purchased rather than as a true partner motivated to help drive the business forward.  The issue could possibly be that some of the IT processes make it difficult for others to do business with us.  Perhaps they are picking up on the vibe that many see themselves as IT professionals rather than as bankers, manufacturers, retailers or distributors (see “What Business Are You In?”).

If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself. – Henry Ford

The silo mentality needs to be eliminated.  Business is difficult enough, and competition is fierce.  Your company needs everyone on the same team moving forward together.

But let’s face it.  Even if IT suddenly announced that they were changing jerseys so that they could play on the same team as the rest of the company, that doesn’t mean they would be readily accepted.  Others may not be used to looking at you that way.  They could have preconceived notions about what IT can and should be.  There could be years of history to overcome.  Mindsets need to change both within and outside IT.  And actions need to follow words.

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More than 60% of CEOs will hire their next CIO from outside the company, according to a 2013 Gartner survey.  Is that any reflection on you as the current CIO?  What are you doing to develop a great leadership team?Building Bench Strength

The intent to hire the next CIO externally could simply mean that the CEO has a “grass is greener on the other side” mentality.  It might mean that you have inadequately developed the talents of your subordinates, or it could imply that you haven’t yet given them enough PR within the upper echelon of the company.  Or possibly your department simply doesn’t have anyone capable of taking the reins anytime soon and an infusion of additional talent might be needed.  Perhaps, though, it indicates that the CEO isn’t totally satisfied with the current direction and performance of IT. Read the rest of this entry »


Corporate boards are more concerned than ever about technology and its effects on the company.

They hear the horror stories of millions of dollars sunk into technology projects that fail to meet their goals.  They see how one dissatisfied customer can use technology-enabled social media to ignite public outrage against a company. boardroom

They read about website failures during critical times and understand the potential for both short-term and long-term consequences.  They may have even themselves endured fallout from a computer virus.  They see the adverse effect a cyber-attack can have on a company in terms of bad press, lost revenue, legal woes, and erosion of customer trust.  They hear of companies failing because of inadequate preparation for continuation when a disaster occurred.

They fear rival companies gaining a competitive advantage through some technological investment.  They see whole industries disrupted as a result of new technologies.  They know of companies no longer in existence because they failed to react to technological changes.

And they see – and feel – that the pace of technological change and its effect on business is rapidly increasing.

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There has never been a stronger need for a solid relationship between the CEO and CIO.  Rapid technology advances are causing changes in societal behavior which in turn are having a profound effect on business.  Social and mobile technologies have given new power to the customer to compare products, solicit/discover third-party product recommendations, publicly voice their support or displeasure, and buy from anywhere.  This has ushered in the ‘Age of the Customer’ which Forrester defines as a “20-year business cycle in which the most successful enterprises will reinvent themselves to systematically understand and serve increasingly powerful customers” (Technology Management in the Age of the Customer). Connecting

Technology is also enabling disruption of entire industries.  Think about the effect, for example, that Amazon has had on retail brick & mortar booksellers.  In fact, an IBM study found that 41% of CEOs expect increased competition from companies outside their industry in the near future (The Customer Activated Enterprise).  They also recognize that companies within their industry are using big data/analytics to improve their decision-making and more precisely target customers.  CEOs are placing a priority on shaking up the status quo in their organization.  There is a sense of urgency and a push for innovation, and technology is obviously a major part of the solution.

But in too many companies, there is a disconnect between the CEO and the CIO.  Jim Stikeleather writes in a Harvard Business Review blog about a research study on the changing role of the CIO and IT (The IT Conversation We Should Be Having).  In short, the study found that CEOs believe that CIOs are not in sync with the new issues CEOs are facing.  In addition, CEOs feel that CIOs do not understand where the business needs to go and do not have a strategy truly supportive of the business.  More specifically, almost half of CEOs feel IT should be a commodity service purchased as needed and do not feel that their CIO understands the business nor how to apply IT in new ways to the business.  Moreover, a KPMG survey found that only 5% of executives feel that their business and IT strategies are 100% aligned (Executives See Disconnect Between Strategy and Technology Within Their Organizations).  Given this, is there any wonder at the call for the elimination of the Chief Information Officer position and/or the addition of other C-level positions like the Chief Innovation Officer, Chief Data Officer, or Chief Digital Officer? (Will CDO Steal CIO’s Leadership Role?)  Yet I can’t help but feel that the major issue here is that too many CIOs have not truly gotten involved in the business and have not worked to develop a solid relationship with the CEO and other C-suite executives.

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The CIO may historically have had no stronger ally in the C-suite than the COO.  The focus of both roles has typically been on improving operational efficiency and reducing costs.  A large percentage of IT projects supported these twin objectives and may have ultimately been under the oversight of the COO.  It is interesting that many COOs express that they face an issue of visibility.  When everything is running smoothly, they rarely receive the credit they truly deserve.  Yet when things go wrong, they can appear to be in the crosshairs.  That is very much akin to an issue the CIO faces in keeping the lights on.high-five_business_partners

Today’s COO faces increasing demand and complexity.   Perhaps more than ever before, companies are realizing that although cost minimization and efficiency are very important, they must be careful not to adversely impact functions that customers value or that are needed to achieve strategic goals.  As such, the COO is being called upon to strike the balance between efficiency and flexibility.  Change has become more of a constant, and the COO is assuming a major role in the business transformation necessary to achieve the strategic agenda.  Again, isn’t it easy to see the commonality with what the CIO is being asked to do?

CIOs have seen so much synergy in the roles that they envision the COO position as their next step up the corporate ladder (Forbes’ Beyond CIO series).  But even with all this in common, COOs view their relationship with the CIO as one of their least successful among other executives.  In fact, just 32% of COOs consider their relationship with the CIO to be very strong (The DNA of the COO by Ernst & Young).  

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