Global CIO: Why CIOs Without Customer Engagements Will Fail - InformationWeek

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IT Leadership // CIO Insights & Innovation
Commentary
7/21/2009
11:19 AM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
Commentary
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Global CIO: Why CIOs Without Customer Engagements Will Fail

Listen in as a CEO tries to understand a non-negotiable demand from a Global CIO his company is trying to recruit.

"Everything else you've described about the Global CIO role you've created sounds very appealing, but I have to be very blunt and say that the job just holds no appeal for me if I won't have responsibility for a lot of engagements with customers. I can't budge on that one."

"And likewise, everything I've heard from you about how you'd handle this new position has reinforced my view that you're the ideal candidate, so I don't want to let this one issue get us off track. So tell me a little more about why you feel that this direct link to customers is a potential deal-breaker for you -- if all the other parts of the offer feel right, and the comp package is all squared away, and you'd be sitting on the executive committee as Global CIO, don't you think you'll have more than enough to keep you busy with the IT transformation and the business-process optimization? When will you be able to get away to spend 25% of your time with customers?"

"Hey, I understand how this might seem a little strange, so let me take another whack at explaining why this is a non-negotiable issue for me. And I'll try to frame my argument around the three issues you just mentioned: being on the Executive Committee, the IT transformation project, and business-process optimization. Let me take those one at a time:

"First, the Exec Committee. If I accept your offer, then the five people on that committee are CEO, CMO, CFO, EVP of Sales, and me as Global CIO. The first four already spend a lot of time with customers, and the insights you gain from those exchanges and the ideas you generate from hearing what they like and dislike about our products is priceless. How could I hold my own as a member of that committee, and make meaningful and valuable and timely contributions, if I spend 95% of my time cooped up inside our organization? Even as I would be traveling the world to our various locations, I'd still be stuck inside our organization. How much meaningful business change can I drive if I can't see the world through the eyes of the people who are buying our products?"

"Yes, I see your point about the value of that exposure in the marketplace. But won't it cause confusion among our various teams if suddenly the CIO is out making sales calls? Won't customers wonder what you're doing there?"

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Global CIOs: A Site Just For You
Visit InformationWeek's Global CIO -- our new online community and information resource for CIOs operating in the global economy.

"Look, Tom, I really hope you're just saying that to be provocative because --"

"-- Guilty as charged, Carol; I just can't quite see --"

"-- if there's such a big gulf between my view of wanting and needing to see the world as our customers see it, and your view that such activities by a CIO would only result in organizational confusion instead of organizational enhancement, then I hope you'll understand why I consider this non-negotiable. Because otherwise I'd be spending too much of my time justifying to too many people the need for me as a top executive at this company to be directly involved in growth and product development and competitive analysis. Should I even bother with my other two points, or have I just talked myself out of consideration for the job?"

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