by Reynold Lewke and Steve Kelner

What Does It Mean to Have Market Knowledge?

Nov 01, 20072 mins
CIOIT Strategy

IT leaders who excel at understanding their company's market can make strategic decisions about technology and business trends, say consultants from Egon Zehnder Internationaln

The C-level competency of market knowledge is about understanding the market context in which a business operates. Competence in market knowledge is usually a requirement of the leadership competencies of strategic orientation, commercial orientation and customer impact.


How One CIO Develops Her Market Knowledge

Anticipating Customers’ Needs

At basic levels of performance, leaders understand obvious industry trends, the company’s products and its customers. Middle-level performers see emerging trends. At high levels, leaders understand relationships among the various elements of the market and see how trends could create new customers, affect dealings with competitors and cause potentially profitable changes.

CEOs are better at tracking competitors and industry trends than are CFOs. Both perform better than CIOs, who are just beginning to know their markets well.

How to Develop Market Knowledge

Developing market knowledge is both easier and harder than behavioral leadership competencies. It is easier in that performing at a basic or middle level simply requires study. To get to the strategic level of performance, however, one also needs insight, which comes from understanding the depth and breadth of the business, its market, and the levers by which these may change.

Are You Ready to Exercise Market Knowledge?

Readers wishing to improve their performance in this competency need to examine their organization’s readiness, and then assess their own. Some questions to ask include:


  • Does the organization have an articulated strategy that it follows?
  • To what extent is the organization market-driven versus technology-driven?
  • Is the business simple, or does it include a wide variety of products, customers and business models? Is the direction of the business coherent?
  • Individual

    • Do you understand what drives the business and its market?
    • Do you see your role as formulating direction?
    • Can you see a situation from others’ perspective rather than just your own?
    • Can you identify patterns in people and their behavior as well as in systems or processes?

    Based on the answers to these questions, you can decide how to develop your market knowledge and use it to benefit yourself and your company.

    Reynold Lewke is Egon Zehnder’s North American CIO practice leader, and can be reached at Steve Kelner is global knowledge leader of Egon Zehnder’s talent management and management appraisal practice group, and can be reached at