Is The Typical CIO a "Gear Guy?"
In a large ballroom with 250 CIOs, an industry leading CIO takes the podium to discuss how his company leveraged cloud-based email services to quickly deliver email capability to a newly acquired company. He delivers a punchy, succinct presentation and finishes with about 30 minutes to spare. I start packing up, certain that the Q&A will be short and sweet. Instead, I witness 30 minutes of collective handwringing about cloud-based email: What about the service levels? Aren't the costs higher? Are you really comfortable putting company information into the cloud? Can the vendor really deliver?
Time is up. The Q&A is halted. I sit back in disbelief and ask the CIO sitting next to me why senior executives would spend 30 minutes engaged in a heated discussion about a topic that seems best suited for mid-level IT infrastructure managers. His answer? "Email's a big part of their job. It's who they are. If they give up email, what do they have?"
Really? Clearly this is a cynic's view, right? In light of the significant and exciting challenges facing senior IT leaders, email cannot be their main focus.
So I ask another CIO. She says, "Hey, most CIOs are "gear guys." They typically fix their own cars. Talk to them and you'll hear them bragging about their email Exchange migration, disparaging the future of the cloud, and incapable of providing a balanced opinion of off-shoring." She goes on to share that she thinks that 70-80% of CIOs are "gear guys" (versus business visionaries) and constitute the biggest threat facing the future of IT and the IT profession.
Research seems to support these views. In a recent Wall Street Journal article, the authors conclude that, "...most CIOs don't have the broad business understanding, strategic vision and interpersonal skills that it takes to run a company or at least play a bigger role in running one."
Really? I don't see it. But I may have a skewed view. CIOs in my network focus on leadership first, technology second.
But my network, plus the opinions of two people at a conference is not a good enough sample. So now you can help shape this perspective. Share your view of CIOs and senior IT leaders — those you have worked with and, if you are in IT, worked for. Are the vast majority of them gear guys? And if, as I hope, they aren't gear guys, what are they?