Monday, July 04, 2011

Preaching to the CIO

The other day I attended a congregation of CIOs with a dozen odd vendors sponsoring the event. It was a gathering of 100 odd CIOs who took time off on a Saturday to amongst other things patiently listen to the spiel. With representation across industries and a mix of senior and evolving leaders, the learning and networking potential was expected to be high. The investment of time from these leaders carving out a portion from their personal time was expected to yield reasonable value.

Now every sponsor vendor always seeks to disseminate information on their offerings and pitch their wares to every target segment. Traditionally this has taken the form of slide presentations that no one wants to hear; at times even the presenter is struggling to do justice to the content as s/he is not the creator of the slides which have in many cases lost relevance. Futile attempts to change this model of engagement have left the participants numb as they grace such time with their physical presence but rarely with the mind.

Before embarking on the merits of doing business with their company, setting the context with the audience has always been seen as a good idea; and this is what they started off with. The first one off the ground started with data from respected research companies.

What is the business reality today ? Not necessarily in order of priority, they are: expectations of growth, exploring new markets or products, driving operational efficiency, cost containment, IT lead innovation, and customer centricity. How do these impact the CIO ? The CIO is expected to be a business leader shedding off the technologist skin; s/he should transform and work with other CXOs, overturn the iceberg of IT expense by reducing the operational expenses and allocating higher amounts to new initiatives. Slides titled “Changing Role of the CIO” advised the need to wake up and get going. However, the best part was how their old offerings now enable this shift.

Storage solutions, Security service providers, system integrators offering RIMS, data centre solutions, virtualization solutions, and even network solution providers found a way to connect the dots and make the CIOs appear like cretins and kids in school who needed to be reminded of how their performance will be measured. Best part was the repetition of content with the context lifted from the same reports.

We all know that CIOs are a patient lot and do not ruffle feathers easily. But when speaker after speaker repeated the cliché, the unrest in the room began to take the shape of a mutiny. Half way through the program, sparsely occupied seats greeted the incoming speakers; those present had no interest and thus engaged each other on the table in discussions detached from the proceedings in voices loud enough to send a clear message across. Over coffee the vendors were chastised for their immature behaviour with a clear message:

We know our reality better than you ever would; we transitioned to being business leaders a long time back; however you are still trying to sell to IT Managers believing that the past is frozen. We did impact the expense line and it was not about IT expenses only which is why you believe that we are not connected to the reality. Our CEOs and other CXOs do not look at us the same way they did a decade back; they partner with us, seek our advice and work together towards the common business objectives. We are not enamoured by hardware, software, new technology, we seek to solve real life business problems, sometimes with help from technology. So, stop debating the changing role, it happened while you were busy trying to figure out why there is no traction any longer with the CIO. It is you who need to change to align to the new age CIO.

1 comment:

  1. Yashpal soni10:51 PM

    Well said Arun!!! It all depends upon the length and bredth of an Individual how he/She handles the expectations.....Certainly not an easy task to manage people from various disciplines and " Whims and Fancies". There is no yardstick as well how to behave in various forums in a comapany....I am a firm believer as a CIO one has to wear different "HATS" and one must change gears depending upon the cause of the CONTEXT....I wish its like " Knife through butter" but actually its not....