Leave emotion out of it. For obvious reasons, most CIOs' first P&L management role involves a technology product. The good news is that CIOs know a thing or two about technology, its product development lifecycle and what customers want out of new purchases. The bad news is that many CIOs, no matter how business-oriented they are, have a deep and abiding love of technology that can get in the way of objectivity.
"When you are in the position of deciding what new technologies to bring into your product line, you need to avoid getting emotionally caught up in a deal," says Holt. "Otherwise, you can fall in love with a technology and what it offers the world before you have constructed a business model that provides the appropriate amount of earnings."
In January 2003, Tim Wright became CIO and CTO of Geac, an enterprise software company. A year later, he was promoted to CEO of Geac's Asia-Pacific, Europe and Middle East operations while keeping his CTO title. Now, as general partner of VC firm GrandBanks Capital, Wright worries less about his own business plan and more about the revenue potential of his portfolio companies, but he remembers well the challenges of running a business. Wright's suggestions?
Use your own customer experiences as a guide to selling. "Selling a licence to software was the toughest thing I've ever done," says Wright. "Our customers, CIOs and CFOs, are incredibly risk-averse and I was selling products that could have been considered more of a luxury than a must-have; the sales cycle could be between nine and 18 months."
If your business involves a technology product (and even if it doesn't), Wright advises using your own customer experiences as a guide to what makes a sales approach successful. "Think about the salespeople you've bought from and figure out if there is a pattern to the people who have been effective," he says. And while you're reflecting on the best salespeople you have known, keep your eye out for opportunities to bring them on board. Wright was so impressed with one of his vendor reps that he hired him into his own sales force.
Stay on top of product development. As CIO, you manage an array of professionals and are all too aware of the conflicts that can erupt between, say, your project management office (PMO) leaders and your head of applications. This is nothing compared to the tensions between sales and product development, says Wright. "The sales guy will tell you the product doesn't work; the product guy will tell you the sales guy is making unrealistic promises to customers just to close the deal, and the service guy will tell you that they're both full of it," he says.
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