A tech discussion your CEO will welcome

Marc Schiller follows up on how to improve your CEO's view of technology as a strategic asset for the company.

Last week I made the bold claim that in light of recently published research on how people and businesses respond to "fashionable" technologies, IT leaders now have a new way to capture the attention of their CEOs who otherwise tend to be less than 100% interested in IT matters.

You can read the full post here, but in a nutshell I suggested that IT leaders demonstrate (with the support of the research study) how adopting a particular approach to fashionable IT can result in:

  1. Improved company reputation
  2. Improved bottom-line performance
  3. Increased CEO compensation

More importantly, since these three topics are of great personal and business interest to your CEO, this discussion has the potential to catalyze a new relationship between you and your CEO and to improve your CEO's view of technology as a strategic asset for the company.

Now, in order to convey this information in a meaningful way and to advance your career, I suggested a two-part approach:

Part I: Have a short attention-grabber conversation with the CEO that puts forth the basic promise and piques his interest, then schedule a follow-up meeting. Part II: Use the follow-up meeting to make your case and to begin a new relationship with your CEO.

Let's continue the discussion on the basis that the CEO has "taken the bait" and has scheduled a follow-up meeting with you for later in the week. What next?

What do I do now?

So you've got the meeting with the CEO to talk about improving the company's reputation, improving bottom-line performance, and ultimately driving CEO compensation. Could there be three more juicy topics for an IT leader to dig in to and to really talk business.

It turns out that this is exactly where most IT leaders blow it, because most IT leaders don't understand how a CEO thinks or approaches this sort of a topic.

Generally speaking, they assume the CEO will want to personally verify the authenticity of the information, the analytical rigor, the methodology, the results, the possible conclusions, and so on. And then finally, after having reviewed all the material, he will be interested in a discussion about the findings and how they might apply to the company.


That is how most IT leaders approach this sort of topic. And fair enough, you should. But don't make the mistake of thinking that this is how the CEO wants to approach this information.

So, what does the CEO want?

It's actually not too hard to learn what it is that CEOs (or any senior executive for that matter) wants, because it is nearly the same in every situation. Shocking, I know, but it's true.

Picture your typical CEO: All day long he is in meetings with people who are telling him different things about different topics. Finance in the morning. PR before lunch. Outside counsel for lunch. Production schedule in the afternoon. Brand managers' conference in the evening. It's mentally exhausting.

In each and every one of these meetings, people are "telling" the CEO things; but they aren't just delivering information. They are all trying to convince him to do or not do something, even if that something is just not to yell at them for bringing bad news.

If things go well in the meeting and the CEO likes what the other side of the table is saying, he asks the only question that's really been on his mind since the meeting began: "So, what would you like me to do about this?"

And that's the magic question. That is what is on the mind of every CEO when you go into a presentation to him. And the faster you answer that question for the CEO, the more in sync you will be with his way of thinking.

The trouble is you've got to know exactly how to answer that question.

Well, what do YOU want from the CEO?

With this basic guidance in place, let's go back to what got us into this discussion in the first place: Getting your CEO to become an advocate of technology and improving your standing and influence along the way.

This is very important to keep in mind. Because as we move forward framing the discussion with the CEO, we have to remember that the promise of fashionable IT or "Buzz Tech," while important, is only the lever for achieving the greater objective; it's not the objective in and of itself.

After reviewing the materials on Buzz Tech, it's likely you will come to the conclusion that your company ought to take three specific actions in order to capitalize on what the research reveals, they are:

  1. More aggressively use a variety of PR tactics to get the word out about your company's interests and investments in Buzz Tech.
  2. Position, encourage, and arm your CEO to be an advocate for Buzz Tech as it rightly applies to your business both within your company and externally (supported by you, of course).
  3. Minimally fund some R&D in this area so that your group can investigate current and potential Buzz Tech opportunities for your company.

As a result of taking action in these three areas, not only will your company and CEO benefit but you will enjoy a higher profile role in the company and will have more frequent and meaningful discussions with your CEO about technology. In short, everybody wins.

The presentation

Now that we have clarity on what you would like the CEO to do, we can structure the presentation to support those objectives. Essentially, the presentation should contain three main sections:

1. Objectives: An overview of the meeting's purpose and objectives 2. Opportunity: A review of the business opportunity that YOU have uncovered as a result of the recently published research
  • 2a. Presents the basics of the research and establishes the credibility
  • 2b. Lays out the key findings
3. Capitalization: Your action plan for which you want the CEO's support

Simple, straightforward, and direct; exactly the way CEOs like it.

We're not done yet

Of course, I realize that the tough part is crafting the words to fit this outline and making the research concise and direct so that it supports your desired action plan. So as a bonus to the Tech Republic community, I have made available a free PowerPoint template that does exactly that.

So what are you waiting for? Go on, download the template, tweak it to fit your exact situation, and get moving on building your profile as an IT leader while making your CEO an advocate of technology at the same time.