Is Your CIO Boardroom Ready?
by Ade McCormack


Great. You recognize the need for some IT muscle in the top team. But are you sure the incumbent CIO is boardroom-ready?

Don't leave it to chance. Test-drive your CIO with the following scenarios. How the CIO reacts will tell you all you need to know.

Scenario 1:

At the next boardroom gathering, the CEO opens the proceedings by announcing that the main topic will be "prison ". This causes the CIO to:

A: Laugh. They assume this is a joke and merely a technique for putting everyone at their ease.

B: Grin. They are delighted to discover that their colleagues are similarly on the same wavelength in respect of "milking" the company.

C: Promptly informs the assembled executives that our IT governance is in place and so the IT department will not be letting the side down.

Scenario 2:

The CEO announces that the IT budget is to be halved. The CIO:

A: Breaks down in tears.

B: Accuses the CFO of being ignorant of IT matters and on a power trip to boot.

C: Contacts all heads of department within the next 24 hours trying to sell the IT department's services on a utilization basis.

Scenario 3:

The CEO announces a board meeting to convene in five minutes. The CIO:

A: Panics. They are tied up replacing a memory card in the payroll processing mainframe.

B: Berates the CEO and board level people in general for their lack of planning skills.

C: Is first to arrive. The CTO has the current "fires" under control.

Scenario 4:

The CFO needs support in handling the acquisition of a competitor. The CIO:

A: Cringes at the prospect of inheriting more IT headaches.

B: Appears to be conducting an impromptu audit of shoelaces and thus manages to avoid eye contact with the CFO until this agenda item has passed.

C: Offers to take charge of the due diligence.

Scenario 5:

The CEO raises the issue of poor sales performance. The CIO:

A: Looks relieved. Thank goodness someone else is incurring the CEO's wrath today.

B: Is pleased to see that the sales director is getting a good dressing-down. After all they are all talk, with a complete disregard for what that department commits the company to delivering.

C: Offers to work with the sales director to review the business development processes in order to ensure that the sales staff and technology are being fully optimized.

Scenario 6:

At the end of the board meeting, the subject turns to weekend plans. The CIO:

A: Will be attending a Star Trek convention with the data centre team.

B: Will need to load up MS Project to see what is scheduled.

C: Is hosting a dinner party with Bill Gates and Warren Buffet in attendance.

So how did the CIO do?

Mostly As: they appear to be an inward-looking techie at heart. Not boardroom material and never will be.

Mostly Bs: politically clumsy but exhibits a healthy suspicion of other board members and so will be easy to manage/manipulate.

Mostly Cs: too good. CEO material and so inviting them on board will trigger the countdown for your departure.

Ambitious CIOs, take note.


The Author

Ade McCormack Ade McCormack is the author of The IT Value Stack - A Boardroom Guide to IT Leadership (Wiley, 2008) and IT Demystified. He writes a regular column for the Financial Times advising business leaders on business-IT issues He is the founder of Auridian, a people-development business focused on helping organizations get best value from their IT investment. For more information or to contact Ade, see and .
Many more articles in The CIO Refresher in The CEO Refresher Archives

Copyright 2008 by
Ade McCormack. All rights reserved.

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