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Can You Fix This? January 30, 2009

Posted by Chuck Musciano in Leadership.
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I’m a gadget guy.  I’ve been fascinated by things with blinking lights for a long time.  Before I had access to computers, I built Heathkit radios.  Before that, Erector sets and Legos.  I love to tinker and figure out how things work.  It led me to computing, which has led to great happiness in my career.

I think technical expertise makes me an effective CIO when I deal with other IT people, especially on my own team.  I know enough to hold my own in technical discussion, and bring a lot of experience to the table as we try to design new systems and solve problems.  I think a non-technical CIO can be easily overrun by their people and make bad decisions.

But does all that technical expertise make me an effective CIO among other executives?  My management peers turn to me to solve quick problems with their phones, PDAs, and laptops.  I get asked for advice on televisions and home networking.  I never turn down such requests, if for no other reason than that it would be rude to refuse to help anyone.  But I worry that such help pigeonholes me (and other technical CIOs) as the nerdy A/V guy, forever destined to set up the projector and advance the filmstrip during class.

CIOs have fought hard to get real management visibility and recognition.  But we cannot ignore our technical roots. We have to strike a balance between our business skills and our technical skills.  Done right, we retain our management focus while bringing technical perspective to the discussion at hand.  Done poorly, we forever lose credibility among our peers.

Every CIO should seek to be seen as a good business leader with technology skills, not as a technology provider who happens to know a bit about business.  Sometimes, the only way to reinforce that perception is to let someone else set up the projector.

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Comments»

1. Marc Sirkin - January 30, 2009

I can totally relate! I used to be a graphic designer which meant I was also somehow, the PowerPoint guy.. I made the mistake of helping a few people and never shook the reputation.

Turns out, it’s not my problem that you don’t know how to use master templates!

2. Bill - January 30, 2009

Can you fix the reception I get with Satellite radio? 🙂

3. John Baker - January 30, 2009

The A/V guy fixes the PDA, The CIO realizes that the executives of a company need a supported mobile solution and puts a plan in place that includes hiring some A/V guys.
It is not bad to help people out or to get your hands dirty technically but you are not playing the role of CIO when that happens.

I think a CIO deals with strategies that are the successful intersection of business and technology. He/She is always the bridge to the rest of the executive team on how technology will solve a business problem. If along the way a few PDAs get set up in a meeting that is ok.


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