CIOs' Failure to Communicate


Not too long ago we had some back-and-forth about the problems with IT transformation, with me claiming that communication failure has a lot to do with why no one really understands what the term means.

That was a nice segue into another story I'm reporting: looking at how CIOs can effectively educate non-IT execs about IT's capabilities and/or potential for driving value.

Last week I asked Chris Curran, partner and CTO with Diamond Management & Technology Consultants, about the biggest mistakes CIOs make in their internal communications strategies.

Here's some insight into three key reasons he cited:

- The "C" in your title doesn't mean the other "C"s will listen to you. "Just because you made it through the process and have an office in a certain part of the building, doesn't mean you're part of the team," Curran says. "While the boss hopes that that's true, the other members of the exec team won't buy in if the CIO doesn't speak in business terms, understand business needs and the needs of customers."

- Sometimes CIOs try so hard to be business executives first that they forget their primary area of specialty. "The CIO spends so much time trying to be an exec that he isn't able to support that with credibility of delivering value because he spent so little time focusing on the tactics IT uses to deliver on that value," Curran says.

- But sometimes they don't even get that right. "Another mistake people make is that, in terms of innovation and big picture thinking, (CIOs) end up in a technology for technology's sake. They bring a technology to the table but don't do it in a way that's easy for the business to understand." The remedy? Curran says CIOs need to operate within boundaries--meaning the IT chief needs to apply the technology in question to a specific business problem.

Those are good starting points, but I have a feeling plenty of you can offer others. What inherent problems do you see in the way IT communicates with the business?


2 Comments for "CIOs' Failure to Communicate"

  • Jessica Chipkin January 30, 2009 12:21 pm

    The biggest issue we see here is the problem of a glass "half full." For example, we recently worked with a team making progress on a technical problem by figuring out how to seamlessly integrate the Web system to the back-end CRM solution. They marked their progress as being 80% done. Just two more weeks and they would be totally done. They declared their glass as "half full." However the business did not really see it that way. They did not understand why some of these technical back-end challenges were victories. As a result, they did not see the glass as half-full. In fact, they did not even see the glass as "half-empty." To them, the glass was "totally empty" because they had yet to receive any real value! The room for improvement here is to develop metrics that define progress and realized value in terms the business understands and appreciates. This may mean developing systems in phases. Or it can simply mean having IT measure progress consistently with the business based on business milestones and objectives." (Quoted from Bob Zimmerman)

  • Jeff Spiller January 26, 2009 2:44 pm

    Sometimes it's easy to forget that (unless you're in the tech business) your job, as CIO, is to support your company's goals, not become them.

Leave a Comment