How Can CEOs Be Impressed?

For technocrats such as CIOs, a key element is adjusting from an IT-centric emphasis to a business strategy focus

November 11 2009 by Fayazuddin A. Shirazi


“As a way of signaling to the CEO that a new era of business-focused technology has arrived I have been advocating that the CIO change the term Information Technology (IT) to Business Technology (BT),” says George F. Colony Chairman and CEO of Forrester Research commenting on how technologists such as CIOs can impress CEOs to get their initiatives endorsed. It’s a not-too-subtle way for the CIO to say, “Hey, I’m no longer the insular geek you’ve come to know and love through the years — my team and I are about making money, not just tech.” he says.

Writing for his blog – Counter Intuitive CEO – Colony the self proclaimed CEO Guru feels CIOs should know what is in the CEO’s mind so they can tune their message more precisely to that frequency. It’s all about communicating in a simple and effective way, he says. “I have spent many years helping technologists in large companies communicate with executive management and I feel that Chief Information Officers often speak a different language than the CEO and commonly see the world through a different lens, and which is why there is an increasing gap between the CIO-CEO communications,” Colony explains.

According to Colony the secret sauce for impressing CEOs is showcasing a project in a way that it promises higher revenues and increasing profits. “CEOs think incessantly about only two things, higher revenue, and increasing profit. That’s it,” he says adding that all of the rhetoric about productivity, efficiency, and corporate responsibility can be directly linked to these two goals.

Colony believes CEOs are mostly concerned about higher revenues and increasing profits because in the long run, revenue and profit change are the two key metrics which mostly govern the stock price. “While in the short term, alluring strategic statements or charming executives can cause temporary share price spikes, but can’t get you sustainable valuation without driving the top and the bottom line,” he remarks.

Experts point out it’s critical for CIOs to remember that it is what they deliver to the business that matters—not the daily details of how they do it. According to Dr. Ken Siegel, president of The Impact Group, a Los Angeles based group of Psychologists who consult to management, CIOs should focus on communicating to the boss what the company gets for its money and not just brief him on the routine daily details.

Additionally Dr. Siegel feels with IT budgets potentially being reduced, circumstances mandate that CIOs think hard about protecting their credibility with their CEOs. Those CIOs with good credibility will have the most leverage in decision making in the lean years. Those without it could become the dinosaurs of the past, Dr. Siegel noted in his article with eWeek.

“So the next time you see the CEO, remember to connect your tech project, or your new product idea, or your reorganization plan to revenue and profit increases. That’s when the CEO’s brain will light up and you’ll be speaking his or her simple language, says Colony in an advisory note to CIOs.

According to Colony, the miss-communication between CIOs and CEOs often happen because the CIO thinks in terms of “means” — Cloud Computing, virtualization, services-oriented architectures while the CEO thinks in terms of “ends” — higher revenue and increased profits. “It’s the job of good CIOs to translate the means into ends — only then will your point be understood,” Colony points out.

Meantime a CIO Magazine sponsored panel discussion on what CEOs expect from technocrats revealed that CEOs increasingly are demanding that IT leaders excel in leadership, strategic thinking, marketing IT, business and communication.

“CEOs want people who can connect the technology to their strategic intent. They want a person who can show the team the ROI from this investment,” Chris Patrick, partner at executive search firm Egon Zehnder International, a global executive search and talent management firm observed at the Boston CIO conference held last year.

In order to match the growing CEO expectations, experts believe, CIOs must essentially speak to the goals of the business in terms that a CEO and other executives can easily relate to. Focusing narrowly on the concerns of the IT department is counterproductive, they say.

Robert Badavas, President and CEO of staffing firm TAC Worldwide also feels that a CIO should take a full seat at the strategic planning table and be an integral part of the strategic decision making—which means they need to know what business they’re in. “Get out of the office and find out why people buy your product or service. IT is a strategic weapon. To find out how to use it, the CIO must engage with clients and the front-line distribution or sales organization,” Badavas quipped addressing the gathering at the Boston conference.

 

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