Monday, August 06, 2012

CIO Brand Value

Every enterprise has an IT function though the name it goes by may be different. Not many call it EDP or MIS anymore, IT is the most prevalent, BT is catching up and there are a few variants which I wrote about sometime back. Similarly the title of the leader has manifested itself in many ways, CTO, CIO, Head, GM, VP, SVP, EVP – IT and some not so common ones that are either legacy, futuristic, or far removed from convention.

Every person in the enterprise has a view on IT and the persona it represents; this is determined by personal experience and hearsay. Sometimes it is relative to past experience in other companies, in most cases it is based on (un)fulfilled expectations and the buzz in the company. The industry, its associates and partners add or confuse the perception with their views. CIO and the team collectively are thus labelled based on these facts, experiences and views.

CIOs and IT organizations like all beings driven by Maslow’s hierarchy yearn for acknowledgement and recognition. They work hard to create their aura and earn respect with solutions and dialogues that demonstrate understanding beyond technology. They walk the talk, meet customers, and engage with stakeholders to stay ahead in the race. In many cases they succeed in creating a lasting brand value, in few they remain challenged despite doing everything right. Why ?

The basic foundation of IT branding happens every day with desk side support on the laptop, desktop, printer, application, network access, email, and various other things that we take for granted. No one cares until something breaks and that incidence ends up being the tag by which IT gets labelled. One incident gets extrapolated to generic statements of (in)efficiency. Some IT organizations have active communication processes to manage this; most don’t leaving a wide gap on how they are seen.

How many CIOs invest in building the brand they and their team represents ? Business IT Alignment is not only about projects being executed or the discussion the CIO has with the Management teams. BITA happens every day with every interaction anyone within IT has with any other non-IT person (normally referred to as user) within the enterprise. This cannot be left to passive management; it has to be actively managed across the levels.

External branding is another aspect of visibility and credibility that requires a strategy and plan. Go to any conference, event or panel/roundtable discussion, you will find the same old faces on the stage. It would appear that CIOs were born with stage fright; most are happy to be part of the audience, their views rarely get aired (everyone has a view).  Nowadays social media and internet presence too contribute towards the identity of the CIO who represents the IT success of the enterprise.

The combined persona is finally the way s/he is portrayed to the world at large. If the CIO does not actively manage this, it will be managed by forces that s/he does not control. The CIO could then just be an entry in a database or one of the featured ones in a search. If people read about you and read what you stand for, your views on varied or specific subjects, it adds to the perception of who the person is. Some manage this well, the rest leave it to divine intervention.

I believe that CIOs should invest in building the brand not just internally, which is easily done by constant communication and discussion beyond transactions. They should also actively manage their visibility and branding across the IT industry and their chosen industry; participation in industry specific events, membership to bodies, talking to tech journalists and participation in social media make a great combination to get started. Is there more ? It all depends on where you want to go !

I don’t have time is the first lament (please read “Being Busy”), how do I get started is the second; ask the ones who have made it or wait until I write about it.


  1. Anonymous5:46 PM

    Great post sir ! wish to receive the same kind of motivation continuesly.

  2. Sorry, but all I see is largely gobbledygook nonsense...

    "It would appear that CIOs were born with stage fright" - What does that even mean? Did you ever stop to ask why those select few keep making the stage? Ask a tough question or two, and you'll likely find your answer.

    Laying all the ills of the company at the CIO's feet, and then asking why they are not brand building enough is the height of hypocrisy! The only problem with CIOs is that they've actually fallen into the trap of listening to this prattle. What ACTUALLY needs to happen is for a few CIOs to grow a spine and tell people NO! No more without a lot more investment.

    What do you want, the problems solved or the brand managed? Oh you want both?!? AND you want them to grow their experience and abilities organically?!?! AND you want them to do it with ever decreasing budgets?!?!? Are you serious?!?!?!?

    Puhleease... CIOs in comparison to the other CxOs are working twice as hard, with multiple levels of technological disparity, complexity, and responsibility as compared to their peers. And all the while they get fed this dog food how their best is not good enough.

    Sorry, I've heard this mantra too many times to listen anymore. You can't manage the perception, because the perception is ingrained in the culture, and the fear of change represented throughout organizations.

    What ACTUALLY needs to happen is that others at the top need to start educating themselves, roll up their sleeves for a change, and get in and help row the boat.

    That's my $0.02 …

    1. Bernie,

      When you say CIOs need to grow a spine, agree wholeheartedly; can they manage perception, I would disagree with you and say yes; do they need to start educating themselves, off-course, ones who don't become irrelevant quickly. There are many who are already building a brand. You may want to see

      Reality is different across geographies and finally the individual has to WANT to be there; no one can make it happen. The post was to create some momentum, which I believe it has served.


    2. Arun,

      I read both suggestions, thanks.

      The Story Teller CIO is nice anecdotal… leadership, team-work, give success, take blame, tell a story, communicate vision… got it. Not much there that we haven’t seen before, but nonetheless a good piece of writing.
      I appreciate your perspective on the "Power to say no", though I wish you had discussed in more detail how you move from:

      "A challenge or denied service was sacrilegious and a pile of turndowns could lead to “lack of alignment” to what business wants."


      "With increasing comfort with business, conviction, and communication, CIOs have looked the other in the eye and engage in a non-confrontational debate which has germinated into acceptance of the CIO viewpoint and its intent only to the best interest of the enterprise".

      Your insinuation, unless I'm misunderstanding you, is that all one needs to do is understand the business better, reach out to communicate, and all the problems magically disappear with a new era of collaborative engagement blossoming.

      This experience seems dramatically idealized, and far from the norm, hence my point on why so many seem willing to passively stand by. Politics and fear govern acceptance on the other end. If a hand is outstretched, and never received, you cannot move beyond where you are. If you show up to a debate, and no one else is there, your point never gets made. The placement and image of a brand occurs only to those willing to consider accepting it. Placing an image in the mind of a consumer assumes the existence of a consumer!

      What seems to be more "normal" is for everyone to be comfortable maintaining the service-only relationship. Of course this only adds pressure to the IT leader, and never rescues him/her from it. Any attempts to open the door for debates are rebuffed from the start. I would counter that not just the individual, but everyone involved has to WANT to be there, which sadly and often is not the case.

      Here’s something relevant:

      Sometimes is just doesn’t matter whether you manage the brand or not…


    3. Bernie,

      The "why" of so many passively standing by is I believe in the conditioning of the CIO who grew from technology roots with limited exposure and opportunity to hone other leadership skills. Here's another one for you:


    4. Bernie,

      You are very right when you say:
      "What ACTUALLY needs to happen is that others at the top need to start educating themselves, roll up their sleeves for a change, and get in and help row the boat."

      But the question is, who will push them to educate themselves? Unfortunately, there is very high ignorance on what they need to learn. Most CEOs think they need to know the latest in technology, the capabilities of technology, etc, etc. Few understand that there is more to unlearn than to learn about this technology - they need to unlearn and clear misconceptions about this technology and the IT people. Unfortunately, the CIOs themselves are not doing enough to educate others at the top. Nor are the IT forums doing enough. First step to solving a problem is to acknowledge the problem. IT forums have to first acknowledge that there is a big digital divide. With 70-80% failures in ERP projects in spite of the best ERP products being implemented by the best consultants, it is obvious that the problem is not technical but human.

      Arun, this response got posted in the wrong thread. Please remove it from the main thread.

      Prem Kamble

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. The role of CIO's is very important for any Enterprise Or Company.
    Very informatic post.Thanks for it.
    CIO strategy

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