CIO Perspective
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CIO Perspective
Cost-Cutter or Game Changer?
Feb 26, 2014

Game-Changer.jpgExpectations are high these days for IT: company transformation via digitization, mobile, cloud. But IT is not just about hardware and software. It’s about processes, people, and execution too. You can have all the best technology systems in place, but if you don’t have the right talent, or methods, or people to deploy technology, you are likely to crawl rather than run out of the gate.


Having the right people with the right skill sets makes all the difference between achieving success vs. just getting the job done. On more than one occasion, I’ve had business leaders from various industries pose the following questions as they reflect on their internal IT talent:


  • Our IT systems are humming along, so how can we use IT to transform?
  • How will we know if we’re missing the boat on trends like digital, mobile, social?
  • How do we know if we have the right IT talent to kick-start these new trends internally?
  • Do we need to get a Chief Digital Officer to speed things along?

Chances are, if a CEO is asking the questions above, he or she has a hunch that the company is missing out on big and doesn’t know if the internal talent is up to snuff. They intuitively know they need both game-changing technology and a digital strategist to keep their company moving forward.


“The digital world runs faster than the typical IT department’s default speed…” the Economist Magazine noted. I think the same applies to IT leadership and IT talent: digital trends change faster than most people change. The trick here is finding that unique person who demands change before the majority. The other trick is taking a chance on that individual and giving him or her the opportunity to shine.



CIO Magazine State of the CIO 2014: The Great Schism includes the following observations: “Cost-center CIOs must finish a major enterprise project, simplify IT and cut technology spending by a set percentage. Game-changers are being asked to lead product innovation efforts and enable global expansion”. I believe that when it comes to IT, there are the “process doers” vs. “the thinkers”. These are akin to what CIO Magazine referred to above as: “cost-center CIOs vs. game-changer CIOs”.


Whether searching inside or outside a company’s four walls, I think it is possible to find an IT game changer (read Chief Digital-like Officer) by looking for some key traits:


Credible: Find the person who has nailed process, knows how to manage costs, and has technical chops. This person has made a name for themselves by rolling out big projects on time, on budget, etc.


Creative: Encourage that credible person to grow their career and explore “big thinker” territory. Give them a budget, some staff, and the license to think big. ironically, creativity is key even in cost cutting; mindless cost take out exhausts an enterprise and defeats staff enthusiasm. Cost cutting must be looked at creatively by reimagining processes technology and application of key emerging trends. Not having a death by thousand cuts. 


Chameleon-like:  Look for achange agent, someone who intuitively never settles for status quo. Once they ride one wave, they are paddling out again to catch the next wave. This is the person who won’t rest on their laurels; they are always evolving and looking for new challenges.

Feb 11, 2014
Martha Heller


Great post! To add a fourth "C" to the three you have here, all of which are spot on, there is Communicator. We recruit a lot of CIOs, and our CEO clients often cite this as a major deficiency in the CIO they are about to fire.

Feb 26, 2014



Thanks for the comments. Very encouraging. I thought most good CIOs have progressed to be great communicators. But maybe this is still work in process. I do agree that communicating in the language of the business is critical.


See my blog on "Are You Speaking Geek?"


"Focus on the business, not the tech. If you litter your sentences with techie acronyms, you are likely to be relegated to geek-dom. Instead, use terms like market growth, higher customer satisfaction, or time-to-market; these resonate with business leaders".