What do CEOs want from IT?

Very senior leaders of organizations are seldom very good at giving IT the direction IT wants. Expecting that to change is to play a fool’s game.

It has nothing to do with the “technological awareness” of CEOs, COOs and the like. The problem, dear IT manager, lies with ourselves.

We are the ones who don’t think like CEOs.

CEOs ought to be long-range thinkers, big picture thinkers, and focused on where the organization will be years down the road. They speak in ways that reflect that: not the specifics of what to do, but the direction to head in.

A big part of the CEO’s job, after all, is to surround themselves with people who can translate those directional statements into action and produce results.

IT prefers well defined items. Projects to do something specific. Expectations that are clear.

This is why IT strategy — developed in the Office of the CIO — matters. Part of the job of the Chief Information Officer is to translate CEO-level direction into action — and to produce results.

What CEOs are talking about (and this isn’t new: it’s been the agenda for the past few years) is increased agility and flexibility, faster product (or service) to market times, value generation through having an information insight competitors don’t have, more cross-overs and “two or more benefit” deliverables, coupled with squeezing costs wherever they can be found.

CEOs are reacting to funding shortfalls (if in the not-for-profit or public sector) or competition from lower cost locales (if in the private sector), and, for everyone, disturbed and risky economic prospects.

CEOs expect differentiation from IT. This is the exact opposite of the IT model for the past two decades, which was based in copying others, using the same packages as others, measuring spending relative to others, and the like.

CEOs expect the organization as a whole to pick up the pace. The IT substrate of communications and tools needs to enable this, whenever, wherever someone is working.

CEOs no longer define their organization as a “good team player” known for going with leading vendors. They want their organization to excel — which will mean managing more risks to gain the rewards.

All of these (and more) need to be reflected in the IT strategy to succeed.


About passionateobserver

I am a passionate observer of our society, the economy, and politics. Mostly I don't like much of what I see, so I write as a concerned citizen. To the fray, I bring a background in the philosophy of history, a lifetime's reading, a work history in information technology management, consulting and education.
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