After talking and meeting with more than several Fortune 100 CIOs and CTOs, I’ve really discovered a common paradigm. This of course is over many years of experience. It’s important to understand the role of CIO or a CTO, but it’s also important to understand when they clearly do not get it.
I’m not trashing anyone or their people (or I would name them) which I will never do.. (I’ll take it to my grave prior to divulging a name).. Well.. maybe one.. But I won’t.. Although, he fled to Europe after his gross negligence.
The bottom line is a CIO or CTO who can expect to be effective should understand the technologies they’re implementing in their organization. Reading a Whitepaper or two and calling yourself an expert is far from the nearest truth.
You need to understand the limits of the technology. The only way you’re going to find out about this is to have a lab. With Fortune 100 budgets, you’d think they would have a test environment to evaluate technology prior to implementation, but it is the farthest from the truth. This is why most large organizations acquire companies for far more than what they’re really worth.
It’s not strategy, it’s gross incompetence. Your budget allows you to have 2-3 of your top technologists evaluate technologies. I’m not talking about listening to a vendor or reading a whitepaper, but actually implementing a technology in your scenario as you would use it in a test environment.
It’s unfortunate, but it’s so much about ego today that it’s unreal. It take very little effort to put two people and a few servers (2-3) to actually test the implementation of a technology against a baseline that is established in the test environment.
I’ll also make one comment. If you think as a business owner that hiring a CIO who has no knowledge of your core vertical is a good idea, it’ll be a very costly mistake.
This can be said about 2-3 verticals.
3. Aerospace Engineering
Why do I know? I’ve been there. While I won’t discuss the specifics, learning any of these verticals is not as easy as transitioning from selling sneakers to selling hammers. It’s a big deal. These are incredibly regulated industries and hiring a CIO / CTO who has no knowledge of the veritical is similar to committing suicide (hari kari).
You might as well shut your business down and just throw the money away. If you take a look at the regulations, deadlines, and anything else associated with these verticals, you will realize very quickly that this is more than just setting up a server and hiring a good Java Developer.
Many specifications are over 1000 pages in Healthcare and Finance for example. The difference? The fuzziness of the spec. Everybody interprets it differently and without the right leadership, bad things happen.
Health insurers for example (or anyone in healthcare) faces a deadline of Oct. 1, 2014. Would a new media or auto industry CIO / CTO even know about this? Probably not. Would they even know that in Healthcare, the majority of the revenue comes from the government? Probably not. Which branch, if so?
I will not answer that question even though I know the answers. The point I’m making is if you want to be successful and run an organization that will truly succeed, your job as a CIO or CTO is not to project manage, but to be involved and educated.
You can’t learn aerospace engineering overnight or even in 6 months. You can’t learn healthcare EDI in a year. You can’t learn finance in a year either.
So here’s my point people. If you want an organization that is truly capable, it comes from leadership. The leadership has to understand what they are getting into. If they don’t, I guarantee you that your IT expenditures will be 50% baseless.
Why can I remediate 417 hospitals in 8 months with 9 people? Simply, because I know the vertical. Solve SWIFT issues for a major bank in 2 months with 3 people? Something the Big 4 couldn’t do in 2 years? Because I know the vertical.
Here’s my point. If you’re going to hire a CIO or CTO, consider one thing. Are they just reading whitepapers? or are they involved? A good CIO is one who understands the P&L as well as the technical side. They understand technology is a tool. A great CIO/CTO is one who understands the core basics of the technology and it’s impact on the organization.
Naming vendors is not enough. Understanding the inner workings of the vertical and the effects of a technology within an organization is.
How many CIOs or CTOs can say that they’re that involved? From my experience.. very few. Why do I know? I’ve fixed thier mistakes.
So, Mr / Mrs / Ms. CEO, consider this. If you’re hiring for this position, consider hiring someone who knows your industry as well as or better than you do. If you don’t, be prepared to hemmorhage extreme amounts of money. You’re hiring someone for their expertise. You’re not hiring someone to learn on your dime.
This will be some of the best advice you’ll ever get..