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How to Get Taken Seriously by the CEO

CIOs are misunderstood. They’re at the top of the IT pyramid and yet no one seems to take seriously the idea that they’re the singular most valuable tool for transformative technology leadership. If the CEO could only come to terms with this reality, there would be much rejoicing for IT, and both C-Suite officers would gain tremendously from a close working relationship.

A “Thankless Task”

But as Mark Samuels argues in an article for ZDNet, this is a puppy dogs and rainbows scenario. CIOs need to actively work to gain the attention of their company’s chief executive. Many will argue that the CIO is not the right person to be making top IT decisions. But that argument makes the assumption that all CIOs are created equal. Perhaps it’s just a matter of finding the right fit. Sure, it’s a “thankless task” to be entrusted with keeping tech systems running smoothly. No one wants to praise the status quo. But precedent tells us that conversations about innovation tend to improve in the absence of IT failures or other disruptions.

Talk to Me

Good communication means regular communication, according to CIO Adam Gerrard of Yodel. The CEO expects to talk about business-related matters, wants to see problems coming at them in advance, appreciates honesty, and quite simply wants the CIO to deliver on the promise of effective and reliable IT service. Yet as former Tullow Oil CIO Andrew Marks puts it, “quality and relevance matter more than frequency” when it comes to communicating with the chief of chiefs. The CIO ought to adopt a customized approach to dealing with the chief executive, whether that executive is customer-focused, business-savvy, or tech-minded.

According to Ian Cox, the CEO is a great ally who can provide “air cover” for IT, so long as the CIO knows how to approach them:

“Executives need to feel like they’re getting something out of the conversation with the CIO, so give them information, research, and evidence,”…”Don’t talk about the strengths of the hardware or the capacity of the network. Show them you’re a well-rounded individual with loads of interesting information that can help the business. Then, when you need to talk about IT, they’ll be more prepared to listen and will be more engaged.”

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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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