Date: June 23, 2009

Author: JT

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CEOs Don’t Know Technology

In the past few weeks, I have had three different conversations circling around CEOs and their relationship to the technology at their disposal. For many organizations, the CEO simply does not have a good grasp of all the different technologies employed in their business. And, to be honest, that is perhaps as it should be.

The CEO’s role is that of an extrovert, focused on the key value proposition(s) of his or her business. For instance, the CEO for a computer superstore chain may be focused on profit per region; a bank managing risk relative to fluctuation in interest rates; or, increasing customer profitability as a function of customer service offerings. What the CEO should not have to
think about is how do I employ my information technology resources; improve my backend business processes; or, ensure my business units have contemporary communication tools available to them? They cannot be oblivious to these things but neither should they consume major portions of their time.

The third conversation I had just this morning is what set me down today’s path. As I talk with people, it remains consistently apparent to me, that many CEOs (or equivalent business leader) end up spending too much of their time looking inward, uncomfortable as to whether their infrastructure will carry the organization down its chosen path.

Technology leadership is what is needed. This is often the role I typically provide. For instance, as the global technical account manager for Ford Motor Co., my role was to work arm-in-arm with the global sales executive. Occasionally, the sales exec would start delving more deeply than necessary into the specific technical details of the offering being proposed to the customer. My guidance to them, stay focused on your business objective. I’ll let you know if the technology can support what you want to do or not.

For the senior executive, most technology—especially the stuff ‘under the hood’—should simply be considered a business enabler. The CEO is by nature an organization’s main extrovert. The technology leader, a CIO/CTO/Dir IT/pick-your-title, is his or her partner, an organizational introvert, yet still having a good dash of business acumen, common sense, and big picture understanding. He or she is one of the CEO’s arms. He or she doesn’t care about the ‘arm’, per se. S/he just wants to know the ‘hand’ will be on target when needed.

If you’re a CEO uncertain of your footing, uncomfortable your technology platform(s) will support you, have a good chat with your team’s technology leader. Don’t have one? Maybe it’s time.

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