CIO: Wield Thyself

CIO: Wield Thyself

Vendor CIOs are starting to add their expertise to sales and marketing efforts, helping to increase brand awareness and customer satisfaction - and in some cases, even closing deals

Be prepared. The next sales rep who comes through your door may very well be another CIO. And apparently that's fine by the customers.

According to this magazine's "State of the CIO 2004" survey, CIOs spend 26 percent of their time communicating with users, and regular communication with users ranks as the number three practice that CIOs rate as highly effective in adding value to the business at large. For a particular branch of CIO, that end-user market takes them outside their organization: CIOs of vendor and supplier companies are increasingly being asked to add their IT management skills to the sales and marketing push, helping to increase brand awareness and customer satisfaction, and even assisting in clinching deals.

You have probably noticed them at conferences. Instead of putting up a sales and marketing representative, or even the CEO, vendor organizations are putting their CIO forward to elaborate on what changes they have wrought internally on the vendor's own IT systems. This can make for an interesting case study, but it obviously also has the added benefit to vendors of portraying them as a well-managed, efficient and therefore, hopefully, trustworthy organization. "We know what we're doing, we're here for the long haul, and we eat our own dog food," they seem to be saying, "so you can feel more comfortable spending your IT budget with us."

Climb Every Mountain

If assessing and implementing a particular piece of technology could be compared with climbing a mountain, then technology evangelists, advisers, consultants and so on would have three roles to choose from:

  • to identify where the mountain is and how you should climb it (the "practical" approach), or
  • to show how they have climbed the mountain (the "been there, done that" approach), or
  • to indicate why you need to consider climbing the mountain in the first place (the "visionary" approach).

This third role is the preferred position of Capgemini's global CTO, Andy Mulholland, who sees his role as educative for both internal and external users of technology in terms of business value.

However, there is a fourth option: to convince you that you should climb the mountain, regardless of the actual value in getting to the summit, if you in fact ever even get there.

This is the sales approach.

CIOs are prepared for this sort of "technology boosterism" from sales reps and account managers. Their defences are well established from years of experience in seeking out the vested interest of those who so enthusiastically prefer one technology over another - either altruistic zealotry or, more often, commercially-minded commission.

But is this sort of activity a proper role for one of your peers?

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