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The Naked Truth: It’s Time to STOP Educating
the CEO About Technology

by Jackie Bassett

Completely contrary to what many have preached for awhile now, the naked truth is that educating the CEO about technology is a waste of time and we need to stop. Why? We’ve just run out of time. Digitization has just met globalization and CEOs of companies that say no to customer demands will lose to those who just say yes - whether the latter can truly deliver to those needs or not.

Worse yet, virtualization with its compelling financials is now barreling right past IT and heading straight towards the corner office. There’s nothing that will show the weaknesses in any system faster than efficiency and virtualization is all about efficiencies.

So what’s a CIO to do?

Follow The Leaders

CIO Leadership means knowing what the number one problem of the CEO today is and solving it. Today that number one problem is predicting the next big thing that customers will buy. When it comes to the market value of a company in this economy, it’s all about new customer revenues. But how could that be the CIO’s problem?  Isn’t that marketing’s job? Ask Randy Mott whose much deserved, record-breaking compensation from HP was over $10 million dollars in 2005. Or ask Tim Shack of PNC Financial. They’ve figured it out and you can too.

So does that mean anyone working in IT needs an MBA? No. Get one if you want to but that takes time and we’ve run out of that. Think about the reason you want a “seat at the table” in the first place. You want resources and input into the decisions that affect those resources. You don’t want the CEO to tell you how to do your job anymore than he wants you to tell him how to do his.  We are the ones that need to change. We are the ones that need to educate ourselves about what our own value is.

The CEO has long since shown he doesn’t really care what happens behind the magic curtain, just that it happens. He needs new customer revenues, so go where the behavioral delta is lowest. Prioritize those IT efforts that deliver directly to what the CEO’s number one priority is already and you are guaranteed to get whatever resources you need to make that happen.

Stop: to Start

Stop pitching cost reduction. The cost reduction lemon has been squeezed dry and virtualization threatens to wring out the last drop of that. Remember, even if you could reduce costs by 90%, you can only do that once. Then what?

Stop selling FUD to the fearless. CEOs thrive on risk as they know that’s where the money is.

Stop focusing on what keeps the CEO up at night and start focusing on what gets him up in the morning- the sound of Ka-Ching.

Start focusing on your inherent and learned strengths; like change management, behavioral analysis and root cause analysis. Who better to spot a new trend, predict end-user (consumer) behavior or turn terabytes of data into useful information than a CIO? No one.

Getting To Ka-Ching

A good CIO is a better VP of marketing than a VP of marketing The CIO knows where the problems are in a company. Focus on how to turn those problems into profits. So you’re thinking “With all I already have on my plate why should I take on that responsibility too? “  Because you’re in the best position to be the most successful and it’s time to stop fighting the right battle with the wrong sword. The other two reasons are bonuses and commissions. Ever notice that everyone who already has a seat at the table already gets those?
Here are some examples of exactly how these CIO leaders got to Ka-Ching. Each of these scenarios you’ve probably encountered at least once in your own company.  Notice the pattern?

Wal-Mart uses a myriad of innovative technologies to forecast what customers will buy, when they will buy, how they will buy and at what price. Ka-Ching!

Caterpillar used innovative technology, processes and strategy to solve their own internal logistics challenges then established Caterpillar Logistics Services to offer world-renowned supply chain solutions to other corporations. Ka-Ching!

Pfizer invested in a smart card solution to enable digital signatures but take note here. Security wasn’t the most compelling driver-revenue recognition was. Technology that enables paperless transactions with legally-binding business transactions - gets there faster! Ka-Ching!

A VP of technology at an east coast energy company turned a potentially disastrous system where almost any salesperson would bring in any new customer anyway they could, into a customer portal making it “easier for customers to buy”. Ka-Ching!

Metrics That Matter

A recent survey of the top 100 most innovative companies yielded some surprising results. From Apple to Zara, from Google to Harley Davidson, from GE to UPS one common denominator was profoundly obvious.  In 95% of these companies the CIO was found to be a direct report to the CEO. A variety of surveys of the average corporation show only 30% of CIOs report to the CEO. But average corporations are not on the list of most innovative companies.

The naked truth is it’s time to stop educating the CEO about technology and start educating ourselves that what Nelson Mandela said is clearly true about those of us in technology:

“Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are
powerful beyond measure.”

So the challenge is on and may the best man or woman win!  Got Ka-Ching ?

The Author

Jackie Bassett is CEO of BT Industrials, a management and technology consulting firm providing collaborative management consulting services to turn problems into profits. She is also co-author of a book, “A Seat at the Table for CEOs and CSOs: Driving Profits, Corporate Performance and Business Agility”. As an active member of Business Executives for National Security (BENS), Ms. Bassett works extensively with CEOs and CSOs on strategic planning issues such as merger & acquisitions, innovation and collaboration projects. She can be reached via email: For additional information visit: .

Many more articles in The CIO Refresher in The CEO Refresher Archives


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