What does the CIO really need to hear? I’m sure you’ve thought about this question before. Anyone going in to meet with a CIO or other high-level executive has to ask this question – you only get one shot at establishing this relationship. This was central to yesterday’s workshop session on selling security and reaching for that “Trusted Adviser” status.
Yesterday’s WSJ article, “CIOs in the Boardroom: Don’t Be a ‘One-Note Piano” (by By George L. Davis, Jr. and Chris Patrick) offers some insight into what these execs need and where you might be able to help. Authors Davis and Patrick are right on from what I can tell – but CIOs can’t easily pull this off alone. The article calls for CIOs to step up and be strategic when serving as a board member – but this also goes for meeting with board members. Some of the key sound bites from this article might be helpful if you can’t access it here.
- First, the title of the article is explained: “We once heard a board chairman call a CIO serving on his board a “one-note piano,” because the CIO repeated his same theme over and over.” In other words, the CIO can’t be too focused – but rather must offer a board level of expertise or insight.
- Some of the key subtitles offer insight into the content: Be a translator – leave the techno-babel behind and give clear concrete information; Be inclusive – meaning you’re not there just to give your opinion, but rather to generate dialogue and gather ideas; Remember your role – a reminder here that the CIO does not sit on the board to make all of the technical decisions; Check your biases at the door – this is clear; Seek Feed Back – everyone in that room likely has valuable experience – draw from it.
Yesterday in our class we discussed the idea that CIOs are plentiful out there – and many are looking for more ways to stay relevant to their organization (in an effort to keep their jobs). As stated in the above article, operationally focused CIOs are no longer in vogue. Companies need someone who thinks about the business; marketing, selling, customer experience, business valuation, etc. While the CIO does oversee the operational side of the house – networks, servers, up-time, etc., it’s not enough to stay in that world. The board meeting is just one example where they are called to break out of the daily fire drills and be strategic.
On all sides they are going to need advisers to stay on top. So who is going to help them? Who is going to give them the input they need to sound prepared when it comes time to report on the state of the business and where to head from here. When questions about applying new technologies like BYOD and cloud come up, how will the CIO answer? IT is not going to give them this insight. Even if they could, the prophet is never welcome in his own town – the CIO is not likely to go to IT for this.
So who? It could be you…if you’re in sales or the consulting side of the business, selling IT solutions of some kind. This requires more than a willingness. It requires some study time, reading up on the trends, staying in tune with business, and taking the opportunity to talk with more business people. If I could encourage you to do one thing today, it would be to prepare to talk to more business leaders, listen to what they are saying, and remember it. Become the one person who is getting input from all kinds of business leaders – the portal of information and understanding that sits between all of the business leaders you work with. People often ask me how I stay up on all of the trends, especially security – the answer is simple. It’s actually easier for me than most because I am talking to sales and consulting professionals every day, and meeting with CIOS and CISOs on a regular basis through the educational events I do – and by getting input from all sides on a daily basis, I learn more than just about anyone.
© 2013, David Stelzl