Tuesday, March 31, 2015
My CFO thinks he knows technology
After a weeklong discussion on the new business opportunity that clearly defined the process and the strategy, the CMO thanked the IT team and the CIO for their active participation. Then he said something that resulted in pin drop silence and uneasy calm: I think the solution should be ready within a week from now ? You know in college we used to write code and release programs in a few days. The CIO decided to clarify different reality for enterprise solutions that require a bit longer for time measured in weeks and months.
The CIO had invited the CFO to the IT meeting to interact with the team; every month he used to call some of the business leaders to give the team differing perspectives of how they contributed to the business and made a difference. In an endeavor to show off his technical prowess, the CFO asked about the storage environment: why don’t you use the NAS for the ERP ? SAN is expensive; you should know how to economize ! I have been involved in many technology projects and want to help you to choose most optimum solutions !
I had the privilege of working with many CEOs who were tech savvy and challenged me to find new ways to use existing investments as well as keep scanning for new technologies which could be disruptive in the future. The joy of working with such CEOs multiplied the not just my enthusiasm but also kept my teams motivated to put in their best to keep us ahead of the curve. This obviously created a culture of tech adoption that infected the rest of the CXOs to create an enterprise that enjoyed the benefits that IT can bring to the business.
Life gets interesting when some of the CXOs think they know technology better than IT professionals just because they worked in a tech company or studied a programming language in their school. Above are just 2 samples of such dialogues which keep the CIOs challenged and humored at the same time. They would make a great compendium to keep the IT fraternity smiling for a long time; the question that keeps raising its head is how to address such “know IT all” and “been there, done that” situations without creating a scene.
In conversations with many CIOs sharing experiences a few strategies emerged which had worked for most of them. To begin with the general consensus was to humor them by letting them speak out their heart and then keep doing what is in best interest of the project, team and the company. They need a platform to voice their knowledge which makes them feel better about themselves; most are happy doing just that in a harmless way without realizing that their wisdom is no longer relevant to the current technology realities.
The balance select minority of self-professed and declared IT experts who really believe that they know, unaware of when to stop are a challenge that needs handling with care. In positions of influence or power, they can be seriously disruptive to progress. This elite group wants to stay involved, sit through review meetings, add value to discussions with vendors, and get into minute details of deep technology that is best left to the techies. The group had no silver bullet though everyone had faced and managed such individuals in their careers.
Some CIOs had escalated such incidents where possible to the CEO or the Board to get them off their backs. Another avenue appeared to be to get an external third party or consultant on board to provide an expert view to counter the often antiquated, incorrect or incomplete knowledge. For the rest it was about the adverse impact on their deliverables which they were unable to control. So they struggled with shifting goalposts and changing timelines driven by the inane and absurd; they just had to grin and bear it.
One CIO had decided to take on such a CXO head-on and not accept the nonsense; he corrected the CXO in meetings and gave alternative and at times contrary views which almost every time put the CXO in an embarrassing and compromised situation. Unable to withstand the humility of the situation, the CXO confronted the CIO: Why do you keep countering everything I say as if I know nothing ? You make me feel like a chump ! What makes you so right all the time as if you know everything ? Stop doing this else …
The CIO moved on to newer pastures leaving the company to the mercy of half-baked buzzword laden CXO.