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Posted by George Colony on June 5, 2009
Quickly: Some CIOs are still ambivalent about having the CEO involved in tech.
Content: At the Forrester IT Forum in Las Vegas two weeks ago, I held a private dinner for 15 Chief Information Officers. We worked on the question: "How do you raise the tech IQ of your CEO?"
I've always thought a CEO who knew tech would be welcomed by the CIO. But most of the CIOs at my dinner didn't agree. Here are some comments:
1) "The CEO should trust IT to get it right."
2) "CEOs are about making the company successful -- not on the minutiae of tech."
3) "The CEO is about results, not tech."
Now I had a great time at the dinner, but I must respectfully disagree with my guests. The CEO doesn't have to program, but he/she cannot be ignorant when it comes to IT/business technology. I'm a big believer that the CEO must connect the outside world to the company (see A.G. Lafley's great article in HBR -- What Only the CEO Can Do -- you can get a short summary and the ability to download it here). There is much change being driven by tech in the outside world that the CEO must understand -- and translate for the inside. As I like to say: Tech is changing your customers, and your customers will change your company. It's a dynamic that CEOs must wade into up to their hips -- it can't be left to marketing or to IT/BT. Only the CEO has the wide view to make the connections between external tech change and the company, and the power to ensure that the company responds in a way that benefits its customers.