Monday, January 23, 2012

Walk the Talk

Almost all of my posts are based on personal experience or interactions with people from various walks of life. For a change looking for new topics to write about, I started scanning a few websites positioned at CIOs and aspiring CIOs. I also decided to look up a few celebrity bloggers and tech writers who have either been ex-CIOs or respected consultants and speakers in many CIO forums internationally.

I do receive and read more than 50 odd newsletters every day across various subjects; industry specific from retail (my chosen industry for the last 5 years), Human Resources (for people tips and ideas), ecommerce, social media, leadership, current affairs, regional news, politics, and many CIO focused sites. These are supplemented with some internet browsing, 5 newspapers and some IT magazines daily. The summaries and news briefs keep me updated with information which helps me understand trends and stay current with the world.

Coming back to my search of the sites, the idea was to look at what is the world taking about ? Can I pick up a few insights that could help me in creating the next week’s blog ? Are my posts still relevant to the CIO or I am living in a world detached from reality. What new innovation have I missed while running on the technology treadmill (see last week’s post) and getting to be a retailer and a coach to start-up CEOs and future CIOs ?

Headlines on new product introductions (tablets, phones, servers) and some of the hyped upcoming technologies took up 70% of the landing page across all the sites. A few links to notable blogs on the sites, vendor advertisements and videos made up another 20%. Desperately I started scanning for CIO leadership, business challenges, innovation, people management, and customer engagement, anything that was removed from technology.

On one site I did find some hidden behind a menu option; it was a CIO case study on how she overcame a difficult business situation with her expertise in business. On another site a menu button offered expert advice but clicking a few links got me some technology experiments and vendor sponsored white papers.  When every publication rues and makes a case for a business savvy CIO, why is the content not reflecting this ? Why are these sites still about technology and are they really targeting the CIO ?

Take any IT publication (physical or electronic), irrespective of the target audience (CIO, IT Managers, channel partners, broad-based audience), the editorial or one of the cover stories is always about what the CIO should be doing to stay relevant to the business. The underlying theme is always about business before IT. But after the preaching is done, back to business as usual, do you know about the new 64 core server or the next crossover device with zillion pixel screen ?

They proclaim, CIOs should evolve, cite surveys from other CXOs, CIOs, vendors … and then publish technology trends, new servers, tablets, smartphone comparisons, stuff that matters to a technology professional and detached from a CIO who would depend on his/her team to advise him on  the relevant tools required to achieve the defined business objective. Why can they not walk their talk if their defined target audience is indeed the CIO or the senior IT leader ?

I believe that evolution is slower and selective than technology innovation.


  1. I enjoyed your post. Although my feelings are that the CIO's role now is managing people and departments. They no longer have time to be innovative. I rarely engage with the CIO anymore. It seems that the average CIO today is so buried, they end up trying to block anything innovative until it is no longer interesting. Sorry, I'm just saying.......

  2. Theresa,

    Yes, the CIOs role is managing people and departments, and yes again that the average CIO is buried in the operational out of comfort of the known. But there are many who have overcome this situation and I am attempting to highlight this fact and imploring the CIOs to get out of the rut.

  3. Good for you. If there is anything I can do to help, please let me know. My work requires me to be in the CIO Suite. So obviously the challenges are there. Carry On.

  4. Anonymous10:57 AM

    Very well said Arun Sir. We, the media, are to be blamed. When we talk about an elevated CIO, there is no reason why we publish about technology stuff and shabby success stories on technology implementation. Yes, the CIO also heads technology function of an organization but from a very strategic perspective. We need to be talking to/with him at a different pedestal now. You are right. Being an entrepreneur running a small Media Outfit, I 100% agree with you. But, now read my (I represent a community of IT/Tech business to business media) story patiently for next two minutes and you will realize why we (the industry) wag our tails to 'technology-food'. The sellers (IT producers) are not yet convinced that talking leadership will give them business. There may be aberrations in the industry who leave selling to happen in a natural way. We are tied up with these friends because they are the ones who keep us going. We have to live/sell/walk/talk their dreams along with ours. If we don't do that, it will be very difficult to survive. I will give you an example from your own industry. In most large retail chains the store space is sold/leased to various brands who display their wares. The idea is to display everything and let consumers chose on their own but there is never a situation when a consumer walks in and walks out without being interrupted by the folks on the floor. Why? Everyone is carrying a target on their head. They need to lure the customer who has walked in. They need to hard sell. This example may look/sound a little weird but is very apt. The "Vision" of a retail chain is to facilitate consumer and not hard sell. Correct me if I am wrong. But the industry is far from being evolved and at times succumbs to the pressure. Same is true for IT Media industry. We seem to be too influenced from the West that we also started imitating them without being prepared for the onslaught. They are evolved but we are far from there. Yes, we are trying and certain Dynamic CIO is leading that way. We have a site which doesn't sell itself. We publish mostly the stuff which you (as in the CIO) writes. We don't profess the technology (as such). Things will change... Mind you, there are some CIOs (IT heads) who still want to read to hardcore technology stuff!

  5. Rahul,

    Thanks for your comments, my 2 bits to your passionate post.

    1. The West personifies the market for IT vendors and they believe that the same brush can be applied across the world. You mention that there are many IT leaders who still love technology and want to read all that stuff. Yes, there are many who do and they too aspire to move ahead; should we not help them ? The exception does not create the rule, and similarly I have interacted with many CIOs globally who have moved beyond the tech stuff.

    2. When you talk about retail (my chosen industry for now), again you describe the evolution. Retail is also nascent as much as the CIO and is evolving. You will see some retailers forge ahead of their competitors. They differentiate like the Business CIO and are seen as leaders in the industry. Will others follow ? Maybe yes, maybe no. Everyone finds their niche and works within that.

    We need to accept that all are not the same, like the fingers of our hand. The differences should be acknowledged and thereby the discussion put to rest.