Guest blogger Lance Eliot recently had an opportunity to chat with several CEOs about their perceptions of CIOs

The Oxford Dictionary declared that the word-of-the-year winner in 2013 was "selfie," the social media self-portrait phenomena that even ensnared President Obama in some controversy when Denmark’s Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and British Prime Minister David Cameron snapped a selfie shot with the President.

A selfie, though, can be more than just a narcissistic exercise. Now, as the New Year gets underway, undertaking a CIO Selfie can be illuminating and instructive. Take a moment to look at yourself via your smart phone’s camera, and reflect upon how you are perceived in your CIO capacity. 


I recently had an opportunity to chat with several CEOs about their perceptions of CIOs, and you might find it useful to augment your own internal reflections by the external views that CEOs hold of our vaunted CIO role.

I’ve boiled down the CEO feedback into three key areas. The numbering of the areas is intended for ease of reference, rather than a priority ranking.

CEOs Reflect on Their CIOs

1) Be more politically adroit

Several CEOs complained of CIOs who lack political savvy.

One CEO told the story of a CIO who convened an IT Steering Committee meeting and seemingly got blindsided by the CFO about IT budget issues and a major ERP implementation that was underway. The CIO complained afterward to the CEO that the CFO had been unfair. But, it turned out that the CIO had not done his homework and had failed to prep with the CFO before the meeting. 

"Even though the notion of “politics” is currently eschewed, being politically savvy is part and parcel of success in the executive suite."

Thus, from the CEO’s perspective, the CIO had not exercised good political judgment. He called an important meeting and did not work out critical issues with his peers before the meeting took place.

Even though the notion of “politics” is currently eschewed, being politically savvy is part and parcel of success in the executive suite.

In short, for 2014, CIOs need to improve their politicking skills, which includes having the motions that exhibit political acumen, but that do not overtly trigger the stench of political maneuvering that can then undermine their actions.

2) Observe the doctrine of absurdity

For those of you with a passing familiarity with the American legal system, you might be aware of the so-called absurdity doctrine. It states that adhering to the strict interpretation of something is potentially absurd, especially when it violates common sense reasoning.

One CEO shook his head in disgust as he told me about a recent circumstance involving the doctrine of absurdity and his CIO. The CIO had reworked her IT Service Desk and decided that henceforth, all callers to the IT Service Desk would be treated equally. This was a reaction to some callers that had tried to elevate their priority by either trickery or subtle bribes to get on the top of the Service Desk response heap. 

Though an “every person is equal” policy may seem fair, in a business environment there are top executives making crucial business decisions and others who should be treated as high  priority. A caller from the sales team who is about to land a big account, and requesting help with their tablet to close the sale, is far more important than the R&D junior staffer requesting a memory upgrade in her PC.

This new “equality” policy put in place by the CIO seemed to defy common sense reasoning, and the CEO was aghast that the CIO could have purposely instituted such an approach.

In short, CIOs need to look at their operations and activities, and make sure that common sense prevails and that the doctrine of absurdity does not overtake their heroic efforts.

3) Be a heads-up team player

On a day-to-day basis, it is easy to fall into the trap of narrow mindedness, failing to see what is going on around us, or opting to ignore aspects that do pertain to us.

One CEO described his CIO as having the proverbial head-in-the-sand on a recent rollout that was promulgated by the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). 

The CMO had pushed hard for a saturation social media campaign (perhaps something akin to actor Will Ferrell’s recent nonstop scorched-earth marketing for Anchorman 2).

In the case of the CEO’s tale of woe, he lamented that his CIO had stepped away from the CMO, and blindly let the CMO work on his own using powerful technology to execute a social media campaign.

Unfortunately, the CMO was not especially technically gifted, and the customer file that had been used to do various email blasts got posted onto a web site that was easily lifted by nefarious hackers. 

The black eye on the company, along with potential lawsuits and legal ramifications, though perhaps not as striking as the recent 40 million swiped credit cards at Target, nonetheless presented a large financial and PR nightmare for the company.

Had the CIO and CMO worked together, it seems likely that the CIO would have been able to foresee the potential technical hazards and help to secure the valued data.

In June of this year, I attended one of the first major CIO/CMO Conferences (produced by CIO magazine in conjunction with The CMO Club), and it was readily apparent that gaps still exist between CIOs and CMOs. One way or another, the gap needs to get closed, especially since the rise of social media has increased the ways in which technology can help, or potentially harm, an organization as it pursues new and exciting marketing techniques.


For some of us, 2013 was not a bellwether year, given a government shutdown in the U.S., Congressional deadlock, sequestration, Obamacare website blow-ups, and the breakup of the Jonas Brothers (well, that last one wasn’t so bad).

For 2014, some soothsayers are predicting a banner year, including added bipartisan cooperation in Congress, no more government shutdowns in the U.S., the stock market continuing to rise, modest growth in Europe and no large crises within the EU, and further growth of technology and IT budgets (well, that’s a relief).

Using your CIO selfie, think about 2014 and what you plan to do, both at your job and for your career. If nothing else, try to ensure that you are politically adroit, observe the doctrine of absurdity and practice common sense reasoning, and be a heads-up team player.

It just might make 2014 a banner CIO year.

CIO Selfie.jpg

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