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Can CIOs Manage the Digital Cowboy?

Certainly, this town is big enough for the both of us. That is, the IT field must accommodate both veteran IT pros and an upcoming generation of talent, a group that Jim Anderson labels “digital cowboys” in a post at his blog.

The Weapon of Choice

The term was coined by consultant Pekka Viljakainen to describe a burgeoning workforce that is more comfortable with digital technology than Buffalo Bill with a six shooter. In an effort to relate to these Digital Cowboys, Anderson recommends getting more comfortable with their weapon of choice – social media:

When young people join our departments we generally put them in low level positions where they may have contact with our end customers in a support role. What this means for us is that we are going to have to start to use the social tools that are going to put us in contact with this part of our company. If we do this correctly, then we’ll be able to have a sense of what is going on in the company from those working on the front lines.

Saddle Up

One thing is certain about this new posse of cowboy talent – they’re not easy to lead. The best way to corral them around your leadership goals is to behave more like a coach than a CIO, says Anderson. You want them to understand that they are on the winning team, or that they’ll at least become better players as a result of following you. In changing your leadership style to suit this new generation of digital wranglers, you’ll of course be using social media. But don’t be tempted to just “look cool” to them. Just because they’re young doesn’t mean they don’t understand the value of value. If you want to truly lead the posse, you’ll have to saddle up and learn to ride.

Read the original article at: http://theaccidentalsuccessfulcio.com/management-2/cios-need-to-learn-how-to-manage-digital-cowboys

About Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master's degree in communications at Penn State University.

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