In the Dark

It’s Friday afternoon and your boss, be it CEO, CFO, or COO, has just gotten back to the office from an unproductive trip to Tulsa. On the plane there was a “very interesting” (your boss’s words) article on how company “X” increased revenues while saving millions by installing some new software package and he wants to know why “we” haven’t done the same thing with the same results.

Of course, it being Friday, you were actually thinking about the kid’s soccer tournament(s) or raking leaves or the tech show you’re speaking at on Monday, and not really focusing on what your boss was thinking about on the plane from Tulsa. So, when he walked into your office you were somewhat blindsided by his request for an immediate response to the article he read.

What do you do?

A) Tell him to leave you alone and stop back on Wednesday. (Probably a bad idea — remember the trip was unproductive to begin with.)

B) Tell him why the infrastructure can’t support such an initiative because network bandwidth is already at capacity; not to mention you’re in the process of consolidating data centers as well as wrapping up a Web services project that ties in all the company’s vendors into your inventory-control databases (an initiative from the last article your boss read), etc., etc.?

C) Tell him to shove off. You’re too busy to explain why his ideas won’t work. (Probably a bad idea … see option A.)

D) Request some time to review the article and see what it is company X actually did, what the technology is, etc. and that you’d like to schedule some time with him to review your findings later in the week after the tech show.

E) None of the above.

Well, according the experts, option D probably is your best bet. Opening lines of communication (if they don’t exist already, in which case you exploit them) to the final line of company management is imperative if you are to be effective as a CIO these days.

If you were tempted to answer B, remember that all too often the C-level execs don’t have the wherewithal (or desire) to really understand how IT works under the hood. What they are looking for are business answers to business problems. Network downtime is usually pretty meaningless to them unless you put in terms they understand such as no customer service or bottom-line cost per hour of downtime, said Linda Finkle of the Incedo Group, an executive coaching firm.

“A CIO is never going to be able to get though that barrier if they cannot demonstrate that there is special value to the organization,” she said. “Unless they can demonstrate there is a business reasons for doing (“X”) that we can all quantify to some extent, we’re going to have an uphill battle.”