by Chris Potts

The main proponents of “CIO bashing” are CIOs themselves, apparently

Oct 06, 20072 mins
IT Leadership

According to a major recruitment firm, CIOs are doing better than they think they are. If so, it may be because they’re paying too much attention to the traditional IT indicators, and not enough to some others.

A client of mine attended a session on IT Leadership the other evening, run by one of the major firms involved in IT recruitment (no names). One of the views aired and reported in the event write-up was that “that CIOs’ perception of their own industry is worse than the reality” and “some of the main proponents of ‘CIO bashing’ are the CIOs themselves”. The context in which these observations were made was whether IT projects are now delivered better than they were 20 years ago. There are a couple of things here. Firstly, perfomance at delivering ‘IT projects’ (there’s no such thing as an IT project….) is, these days, hardly the best yardstick by which to measure the contribution of a CIO. It’s tough to get it right, but it’s hygiene. Secondly, however, and much more interesting is the assertion that CIOs have a more gloomy perception of their contribution than others do. It strikes me that the two are probably linked. The CIO’s colleagues are likely to be judging her contribution based on factors that don’t show up in the orthodox IT performance measures. So if a CIO is still using ‘IT project’ delivery, for example, to judge her value to her colleagues and the company, then she may well have a lower view of her contribution than others have of her. Her executive colleagues may sometimes gripe about the old stalwarts such as project delivery and service disruptions. But my experience is that – within reason – they know these things are tricky (within their own area of the business, they have to do them too) and accept a reasonable degree of imperfection as long as it’s accompanied by transparency, empathy and shared ownership of the consequences. Hygiene measures apart, what the CIOs colleagues value her for is (of course) her wider contribution to their personal and political success, and to the success of the company. The orthodox IT delivery dashboard won’t tell the CIO the answer. So if that’s all she’s looking at, then she may well be underestimating her practical and political value to those around her.