by Mark Chillingworth

CIOs are and should be proud of the tech heritage

Apr 26, 2011

On the CIO site at present we have a slideshow where CIOs and IT Directors reveal their first personal computer. The CIO editorial team and I have really enjoyed the flood of responses we have had from the readership and some serious research was carried out to dredge the internet for images of the machines that first got all of us interested in technology. Of course the machines mentioned do give you a clear indication of the age range of CIOs – there are a number of Commodore fans amongst the CIO crowd as well as the pride of Cambridge Acorn and Sinclair Spectrums. What became clear from the responses CIO UK received from its readers was the unbridled passion for technology that today’s IT leaders have. Of late I have noticed a greater confidence from CIOs to exhibit this love and knowledge for technology. When I first joined CIO there was a groundswell of discussion that the CIO role had a limited future and was the C-level equivalent of a coal fired power station. Other commentators chastised CIOs for their technology knowledge and pontificated that in a short few years the vast majority of CIOs would come from the business because the existing CIOs didn’t have the business skills the role really required. Today in 2011 my analysis from meeting a wide constituency of CIOs is that the technologists do have the business skills required and the credit crisis that the world economy is slowly recovering from demonstrated the business acumen of CIOs and their ability to match technology to that acumen. Those that criticise CIOs for being techies are missing the point that you have to question their knowledge and basis for such an opinion.  Can you imagine one of the mega-chefs that Britain has produced of late such as Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay, Heston Blumenthal, Rick Stein or Hugh Fernley Whittingstallnot being “foodies” and having that granular deep seated knowledge and passion for every ingredient, whether it’s fruit, vegetable, herb, mineral or meat. Alongside this towering passion for food all of the above have demonstrated incredible business sense to the point where they are all brands, own restaurant chains and have transformed their businesses and the sector as a whole. If these chefs did not have their have passion and knowledge for food they wouldn’t be able to see the business opportunities, whether it be creating new eatery or penning a cook book and TV show. The two are not mutually exclusive. The same is true of CIOs, if as an IT leader you do not have that passion for PCs, code, the web, the power of networks, processors and processes you will not be able see the business opportunities IT offers your organisation. Away from future opportunities, I know of one government CIO who found his new Whitehall department devoid of techies and a major vendor had managed to pretty much pull the wool over the eyes of that department. Another CIO at the heart of transforming a world famous retailer told me with deep pride last week he’s a techie and has no interest in moving any higher that the savoured role of CIO. So let’s hear it for technology and let’s all be proud of the tech in our past and futures.