CIOs have all the fun
This morning I was asked to share some of my insights in relation to the CEO and CIO relationship.
Hosted by Nick Kirkland, a CIO turned CEO himself, the CIO CONNECT conference near St Paul’s Cathedral in the heart of the City of London is quite a spectacular affair. I was hugely impressed with the technology and infrastructure turning each presentation into an interactive session with full audience participation as iPod’s were used on RIM’s local server to project instant survey results onto large screens in real time. I love this sort of thing particularly when used to engage talented people. I also love the way it enables you to make money in business. The ability to innovate and change our world seems to be limitless from a technological point of view and CIOs are in the driving seat. Don’t you wish you were an expert in technology? What a great job it must be? Just look at Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and our very own Mike Lynch. The CIO is cool with a capital "C".
A summary of my thoughts?
Well here is the CEO of Microsoft’s thoughts. Check out http://www.microsoft.com/mscorp/execmail/2009/09-29NewEfficiency.mspx
Steve Ballmer’s thoughts on the "new normal". Not everybody’s cup of tea but strip out the sales pitch and digest these 3 guiding principles for your career from hereon. You really cant go wrong if you get this right.
1. Efficiency - do more with less. This is mainly to do with reducing the unit cost of product or services.
2. Productivity - with less do more! Mainly sales and marketing. Increase people’s ability to generate greater levels of output and therefore revenues
3. Innovation - Chief Innovation Officer? Absolutely - innovate or die.
Onto my 5 big things for the CIO conference.
The #1 big thing affecting us all is the social networking phenomenon. The next generation (Gen Y’s and M’s) are the new shoppers, prospective house owners, employees and even leaders (God help us!). They work for you already. They get social media, online business, online chat. Virtual reality. They shop online and they go to their friends and Linked In Groups for recommendations - not the government’s Consumer body or the Competition Commission. No way.They just pop an informal question online to their friends on Facebook and then immediately act. Whether you are a Walmart or a BP you better understand how this social activity affects demand and how your customers behaviours have changed and how they think. CEOs are focusing on these new channels and dangers to their business model. Try and understand how it affects them and their business and look for opportunity.
The #2 big thing is "mobile me". Mainframes, PC’s, websites even laptops are going the way of the steam locomotive. Lovely relics from the recent past which are too big, expensive, cumbersome and inflexible to compete with the individually driven mobile application environment. Someone said to me recently we needed one global accounting system into which all data is poured and from which fabulous valuable financial information will flow like pure water in the desert. Sorry, no thanks I want to empower teams (which may be defined as countries or regions) to own their own systems and data in a structured environment and from which they can pull the data THEY want to make them more successful where they are in the market in which they operate. In real time. Mobile me is the greatest cultural and technological shift since mainframe to desktop.
The #3 big thing is convergence. The internet just got very serious and the convergence of mobile hardware, HD video technology and as many apps as one can dream of has given the world a new channel to market. In the Middle East its not only given expression to millions of people, their aspiration and also frustration but its also inadvertently and perhaps inevitably created the internet’s first martyrs. People have died in 2011 as a result of using video and communicating using twitter & facebook. Unbelievable but true.
The #4 big thing is vulnerability. The loose association of hackers calling themselves "Anonymous" are causing anxiety attacks in the boardrooms of companies. This group attacks companies which in their view, suppress free speech on the internet and represent the worst of big business and Wall Street culture. "Beware" they say "we know who you are". CIOs can help explain to boards how the challenged is met through protective technologies and strategies to combat internet terrorism.
The #5 big thing is CIOs in the boardroom. Surely its time to step up and be a part of running the business as an equal partner. But how?
CEOs have the attention span of a gnat. Book yourself a "power half hour" each week or fortnight if traveling is an issue, with your CEO. Your objective is to get quality time and an opportunity to drive your business oriented agenda by getting closer to the action from the best angle - via the top dog.
Tip: Do what you do best which is prepare, set your own agenda and split the topics into long range strategic items, medium term project status updates, short term topics and decisions plus ad hoc issues and challenges to be aware of. All written down in an email and also brought along to the meeting - two copies - as you know the CEO wont have printed it off. Stop after 30 minutes and hold non urgent items over into the next meeting. Never try and get a hard decision from a cold standing start. Introduce topics and tough decisions over a longer period of time building up to the big decision you are after. Let the issues and challenges settle like dust or sand in the CEOs head like disturbed seabed. Shock and awe didn’t work for Donald Rumsfeld and it wont work for you. Incrementalism is the real tool of influence.
CEOs may not do as well on detail as you would like but they are expected to hold the entire universe of solutions to problems in their head. They don’t like to be shown up either so solve their problems for them. Inform them, even of the a minute failure in a distant office. You can be guaranteed someone will email someone and it will end up in the CEO’s inbox. Prevent embarrassment, and you will have an open direct line. Trust and confidence will build.
Email is a great soft direct marketing and internal collaboration tool, use it to tell your CEO EVERYTHING without demanding anything back. Write into the email itself and avoid attaching complicated Word documents with special capacity sucking embedded internal branding - but that’s just my view. Its all about the content
Be structured and prepare to push up into the Boardroom through reading all about the latest Combined Code for Non Executive Directors. Want to know what’s pressurizing the CEO? Read about how governance and regulation is affecting the business he or she runs, how investors and the behaviour of banks in extending credit (or not) stresses him or her out. The internet is a great library of information and content. You can be a virtual expert in anything given enough time to study and research. Universities? Who needs them! I need experience, leadership and wise counsel wrapped up in humility. Most people are on broadcast only option - which is so 20th century.
Be different listen, observe and try and see what you can offer which others have missed. I can guarantee you there is much more opportunity out there than what you think!
October 5, 2011 01:18 PM | Permalink