CXO

Naked CIO: Want ideas on strategy? Ask the IT manager

IT managers must speak up and CIOs should listen...

The Naked CIO is back - and raising the tricky issue of how IT managers can make the transition to being taken seriously as strategists.

Some of you may have noticed my absence from silicon.com. Like many people in many professions, I have had a challenging few months but happily I am now where I want to be and leading IT for exactly the sort of company I have dreamed of.

So down to business. I had a chat with a friend the other day. One of a handful of people who I consider are among the best talent the UK has in technology management. Truthfully, I owe him a great deal and have hired him on numerous occasions. I trust him unconditionally, which is rare indeed.

He has been a de facto CIO for a while for a growing UK business without being granted the title. The CEO now believes the business needs a top-level position. My friend has been invited to apply but has been warned that he may not be experienced enough to fill the role. His deficiencies are that he lacks experience with strategy and hands-on application development.

How many times have we all heard that? The reality is most employers expect us to have a CV that ticks all the boxes. They fail to realise how difficult it is to have extensive experience in data and applications; hardware and infrastructure; security and compliance; not to mention strategy and project management. Careers never evolve that way. How could they?

But I can see the CEO's argument even though I think no one could do the job better than my friend - from company knowledge to dedication. As we talked, he asked me what he should do because he wants the job and is worried that someone else coming in may limit his role.

What I said to him is the reason I am writing this article. I think more people need to hear this message. I said don't go into the interview telling them what your experience and skills are. Go in there and tell them what you would do and what you think needs to be done. Tell them why you, more than anyone else they see, can fulfil these goals.

Never be afraid to reach beyond your sphere of responsibility and tell people what needs to be done. Don't live within the confines of what you think the rules are, if you know you can make things better.

Strategy is in everyone. It is the willingness to innovate and change things to deliver better and faster. My friend is more strategic than he thinks. While I was always seen as strategic when he worked for me, much of what I did stemmed from his ideas.

There are so many talented IT managers out there who think no one wants to hear what they have to say. Take it from this CIO, we do, and we can't be successful without your voice and strategy. So start talking and tell us your ideas and help us develop your strategies.

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