by CIO Knowledge Space

Pig Poop and CIO Pay

Apr 02, 20074 mins
IT Leadership

Shocking News! CIO Pay Drops!

Surprised? How can anyone be surprised? Pundits have been saying for some time that all CIOs really do is keep the trains running on time. And with more outsourcing options and plenty of former CIOs working in the CIO self-help cottage industry or writing blogs themselves, no wonder that CEOs have discovered they can ratchet the pay down a bit. Too many people chasing too few spots? And since CIO’s don’t print shares or make money for the company, why spend lavishly on the CIO role?  If you were a CEO reading all of this, what would you conclude?

Yeah yeah, CIOs need to manage teams, handle difficult vendors, negotiate contracts and keep every internal stakeholder happy. So do a few other C-level folk. And yes, information technology is complex, and a bit beyond the ken of just about everyone, even many CIOs. But guess what – the same is true for many executives of business units that make or do complex stuff. Oh, and many firms still do a mediocre and in some cases a bad job of managing their non-IT employees. And some managers outside of IT who can’t manage their relationship with internal IT also struggle with the outsourced IT relationship. Even internal IT frequently struggles with outsourced IT. And CFOs don’t like their image either. I’ve even heard VPs of sales complain about how they are stereotyped. And marketing executives complain too.  I’ve even heard marketing executives and VPs of sales complain about each other. Maybe the truth of the matter is many non-CEO executives struggle and to compensate, they work longer hours without big pay increases and nice severance packages. Maybe the drop in CIO pay has nothing to do with technology, nothing to do with the relative differences in management ability of CIOs versus other executives, nothing to do with the ability or inability of the CIO to innovate or think strategically. Maybe this has everything to do with who has the gold and gets to make the rules. And maybe that’s why the founders of YouTube started YouTube instead of pursue a long career in corporate IT. Sorry for the cynicism here… But there are many ways to make money, if that’s what you want to do. Like go write a book about Web 2.0. But don’t become a CIO, at least not at the moment.

Personally, I do agree with the pessimist/realist camp that the day-to-day job of running an IT shop is a difficult job. But so is running the day-to-day job of operations in a manufacturing firm, running back-end processing in a financial services firm, running sales in a consulting firm, running logistics in a shipping firm. Yes, the challenges in IT are unique and are new, but we are not alone. And we can’t stop with just running the day-to-day operations. No one on the executive team, including the CIO, can stop there. I am optimistic, however. Especially since many firms still have difficulties properly using IT in the day-to-day bustle and most firms can’t easily see how IT provides strategic advantage. If anyone could do it, it wouldn’t be difficult. Where there is difficulty there is opportunity. And this is where technologists step in. The smart ones will figure out how to help their firms knit human-technical systems together in clever ways to provide an advantage in the market. Non-techies won’t be able to do it themselves. In fact, no-one will be able to do it alone. It takes a team. If CIOs want to address the longer hours and the reduced pay, history provides us with examples. In 496 B.C. in Rome, the common folk, the plebs, decided to leave the city rather than endure the harsh rule of the aristocrats. It worked. The aristocrats relented. The plebs seceded again in 287 B.C. in order to get the final say in all legislative matters. It worked again. Would CIOs do the same? After all, who runs Barter Town?

Vince Kellen is Vice President for Information Services (CIO) at DePaul University and a member of the faculty for DePaul’s computer science graduate program.