The Changing CIO Role And How Solution Providers Can Help


Kevin Pashuk
Kevin Pashuk

If you think it is difficult as a solution provider to understand the role of the chief information officer, just imagine what it's like being a CIO navigating a career path as dynamic as the technology we deliver.

The Will Rogers adage, "Even if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there," is an apt description of where CIOs stand today. The CIO role of 2013 is not the same as it was just five years ago -- the priorities and expertise are constantly evolving just to keep up. In order to survive, the CIO must have a deep understanding of the business so that he or she can leverage technology to differentiate his/her organization from its competitors.

So where does that put you as partner or supplier to the CIO? From my vantage point as a CIO, you can fall into one of two categories. You can either help me thrive and prosper in my dynamic role, or you can be a huge waste of my time and cause me to think nasty thoughts about you and your colleagues. I'm sure there is middle ground, but most CIOs tend to put vendors into these polarized categories.

So how do you get into category No. 1? If your solution is operational in nature, it's probably not by approaching the CIO. It doesn't mean that operational issues have gone away, but the CIO does not necessarily have the bandwidth to deal with the jots and tittles of the day to day (if your adolescent mind is smirking, I recommend you look this up).

Many of the operational issues should now be in the domain of the directors and managers. I suggest you get to know these people, as they will be the ones making the operational decisions, and then making recommendations to the CIO. If you approach the CIO with an operational line of products or services, you may be immediately put into the second category as a time waster.

In short, we are less concerned about feeds and speeds and more concerned with trends, partnerships, alliances, capacity, strategy and building great teams to deliver mission-critical and differentiating services and systems.

The vendors that are in my personal category No. 1 share a few traits:

* They understand my world and the issues I face in my industry. They come prepared. (Hint: They do not ask for "a few minutes of my time to understand my IT needs.")

* They can demonstrate the value they bring in helping me differentiate my organization through technology or specialized services.

* They share their product road maps and demo equipment (under non-disclosure) to allow me to better plan my department's future offerings.

* They provide access to high-level support to my developers, engineers and technicians in order to address issues with their products.

* They don't poach my best people. (Doing this puts a vendor on a quick trip to category two).

In short, to gain access to the "new" CIO, bring your products and expertise to the table for a fair price. Help me add measurable value to my business through technology and deal effectively with BYOD by giving users a platform that appears as open and accessible as Southern hospitality while remaining secure. In addition, help me cut through the "big data" fluff and get the right information to the right people at the right time. Develop a highly skilled team and ensure any and all security and compliance issues are anticipated and appropriately managed to keep the regulators away.

Do any and all of this, and I and the other "new" CIOs will gladly welcome you into category No. 1.

Kevin Pashuk is chief information officer at Appleby College in Oakville, Ontario, Canada. He has started three companies, consulted internationally and is now attempting to change the way education is delivered to our kids. He looks for every opportunity to share his ideas around the changing role of the CIO. Read his blog at www.TurningTechInvisible.com.

PUBLISHED MARCH 22, 2013