by Frank Cutitta

Digital Leadership Strategy and Personal Brand Makeovers

Nov 06, 20144 mins
CareersCIOIT Leadership

The CIO's role in being a collaborative partner with the LoBs on digital transformation has diminished. Is the change due to a skills shortage or a personal branding problem?

Apparently CIOs have become the Rodney Dangerfields of digital transformation. Recent research released at the CSC ASPIRE conference shows that CIOs just don’t seem to be getting any respect when it comes to digital transformation.

Almost 30 percent of the CIOs who responded to the just released CSC Global CIO Survey admitted that they are viewed as lacking the strategic vision to drive digital innovation in their companies. Even worse the perception that the CIO is a collaborative partner with the LoBs dropped 13 points to 28 percent between 2013 and 2014. At the risk of piling on, I’m not sure the number isn’t even lower when viewed through the lens of the business.

Based on my work with hundreds of CIOs and their teams I’m not totally convinced this is a skills shortage as much as a huge image problem. If CIOs were great at branding there would not be 213,000 search hits on “CIOs versus CMOs.” As a means of comparison there are roughly 356,000 hits for “cowboys versus indians” and 300,000 for “Coke versus Pepsi.”

Viewed through the other lens, according to recent research from the CMO Council “69 percent of CMOs say they are trusted, strategic members of the C-suite and/or increasing their stature and credibility with key business leaders.”

As a person who has spent the majority of his career as a global branding executive, I can assure you that marketers might be good at promoting themselves as digital visionaries, but they are by no means great on the execution aspect. I spend just as much consulting time fixing the same digital strategies on the marketing side as I do on the IT side.

Unfortunately, the CMO’s personal branding bravado reflects a 40 percent difference between their self perception versus that of the CIO in regard to being a collaborative partner with many of the same C-level execs and LoBs. Perception becomes reality.

The most important element of CIOs building a departmental “Brand Called IT” is to first develop what Tom Peters coined “The Brand Called YOU.” I’ve gone one step further and expanded my courses to “The Global Brand Called YOU,” given that in an age of globalization, being domestic is not enough.

So where do you start the battle of the personal brands?

  1. Develop an intimate relationship with social media, even if you simply lurk. By nature marketing will always have more internal street cred related to social strategies. Simply having more friends on Facebook and LinkedIn does not at all imply expertise in social enterprise deployment.
  1. Take a close look at your personal brand. Go to and paste in a copy of your resume or LinkedIn profile to see how your personal brand attribute font sizes are scaled on a word cloud. The results may be shocking. (Check out this sample.)
  1. I have my clients and students conduct a Personal Brand SWOT where the CIOs’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats are analyzed. I am by no means a fan of the more evangelical personal branding experts, but there is something about a fair amount of introspection in making this work.
  1. Show that your brand has the ability to attract other very strong personal brands with LoB-related skill sets into an aggregated departmental brand powerhouse. (More on that in an upcoming blog post.)
  1. Develop an understanding of how personal brands need to travel across borders just like consumer brands. McDonald’s varied its menu based on local tastes and customs. The Global Brand Called YOU must do the same to survive in the international marketplace.

What have you done to better brand yourself to assure a more positive perception as a collaborative partner in digital transformation?