CIO Blind Spots
Can CIOs really be the all-knowing technology gurus we want them to be?
To the IT community, the CIO is the pinnacle, an all-knowing master of technology
and business. I wish it were always true. But as smart as most CIOs are, political
intrigue and bureaucratic inertia have some top tech execs paralyzed. They simply
don't know enough about what's happening beneath them to truly make the right
To put it succinctly, CIOs have a huge blind spot. It's not totally their fault.
Managers are only as good as the information and trust gained from their subordinates.
And too often, staff-level IT pros have little—or no—interest in keeping their
CIOs informed. Software jockeys, hardware wonks and network geeks all have their
own self-interest. They want a relatively easy life (as easy as IT can be),
and they want to protect that life and control their destiny. That means keeping
the CIO in the dark.
Unfortunately, many CIOs have become too removed from the action to know the
difference. Part of the problem is that CIOs attempt to control a huge range
of technologies, each of which is staggering in complexity and choice. The bigger
issue is that CIOs are distracted by business issues, which IT staffers are
only too happy to take advantage of. Many CIOs prefer the executive washroom
and hobnobbing with big wigs to visiting the trenches.
The result of this sorry situation is that technical cream doesn't rise to
the top. Instead, fiefdoms have emerged. Just as mainframers fought the PC hordes,
telecom groups have resisted all too successfully the logic of voice over IP,
and programmers have held new projects such as intranets or .NET hostage through
Inaction has only gotten worse during the budget crunch IT has faced in recent
years. "No money" is a great excuse to do nothing.
Recognizing the problem is the first step toward a solution. CIOs must look
around and peer deeply into what they don't know. And they should consider 360-degree
reviews where staffers critique the CIO and hopefully offer a tip or two. Finally,
CIOs shouldn't become too detached from the technology—losing your chops may
mean losing the respect of your technical troops.
An Ozzie Encore
You may have noticed the sharply dressed gentleman on our cover. New Microsoft
CTO Ray Ozzie may be the most technically accomplished employee in Redmond,
aside from Bill himself. Ozzie worked on the very first spreadsheet, built Lotus
Symphony, wrote Notes and started two successful software companies from scratch.
But there's a lot more we can learn from Ray. Check out the full interview
on Redmondmag.com and Ozzie's blog—in particular his thoughts on why rich clients
make sense: www.ozzie.net/blog.
As always, send your thoughts, good, bad or indifferent, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.