The CIO's Experience, Through the CIO's Eyes


After I interviewed Rob Austin, head of Harvard Business School's CIO exec program, last spring about his planned book on the experiences of a new CIO, a bunch of you wrote to me in our comments section or via e-mail asking when it was coming out.

First, apologies for not making it completely clear that at that time, the book was not in finished form and did not yet have a publisher. It does now. Adventures of an IT Leader will be out April 21.

I just read an advance copy before an interview I did with two of the authors (Austin and Richard Nolan, an emeritus professor at HBS and a professor at the University of Washington's B-school), and I definitely recommend that CIOs and aspiring CIOs check it out.

I'll post the interview soon, but here's their underlying point: CIOs need to learn general management skills. Their protagonist, Jim Barton, the newly named CIO of the fictional IVK Corporation, came to the job with no prior IT experience. He ran a division at IVK and was a vocal critic of IT, which led the new turnaround CEO to bring him to table. The point is, Barton was a problem solver, not a techie; a business operative, not a career geek. More and more business leaders are turning to those types of leaders to run their IT shops.

Austin, Nolan and co-author Shannon O'Donnell, a Cutter Consortium consultant, take readers through all the various challenges any CIO encounters, all through the eyes of Barton and his many employees and advisors.

I haven't seen a business book like this before, so I'd be curious to hear what you all think of it once you have a chance to read it.


2 Comments for "The CIO's Experience, Through the CIO's Eyes"

  • Mark Semkiw February 20, 2009 12:41 pm

    I see this as a disturbing trend for the future of IT shops. A CIO is an unnecessary expense at all but the largest organizations. The last thing the techies in the IT shop need is some MBA or MBA wanna-be pulling out ops-science metrics and profitability matrices. The management of IT at the enterprise level should be left to the people who get paid to manage the organization. I see it all the time when someone who doesn't understand the technology or worse thinks they understand the technology, blames IT when something isn't getting done. Usually it is because the business units expectations are just not grounded in reality. IT management is a skill that can be learned by most technical workers (although most technical workers are not interested in management, hence the vacuum in IT management), the reverse is not true.

  • Ron Kifer February 20, 2009 9:21 am

    There is nothing new about companies putting functional business line management executives in charge of IT. This has been going on for years and in my opinion creates as many opportunities for "turnaround" CIOs as does the practice of hiring pure "techies" for the top IT job. The new CIO needs to be both technically savvy as well as business literate. How about a book that provides CEOs and HR executive recruiters with tangible measures for assessing both these critical success factors. If your strategy is to find someone with one or the other skill and hope that they develop the reciprocal capability, then you'd better plan to put your business on hold for a few years.

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