Debate might continue over the future of the CIO role, but one thing is for sure: vendors selling technology to the business are not necessarily targeting the right man or woman when they target the CIO.
One reason is that the individual responsible for technology in an organisation is not always a board-level executive and often has to get sign-off from another executive, such as the finance chief. Furthermore, the increasingly contested nature of executive reporting lines means many service-based roles are being combined, such as an operations chief responsible for the day-to-day running of the business, facilities and technology. But even then, that is not the end of the problem.
Even if a vendor manages to identify the executive responsible for organisational IT, they might not have secured the route to a sale. CIOs or their executive equivalent, you see, rarely make decisions on technology implementation. In fact, they shouldn’t be making such decisions at all.
In a modern, digital age, where the CIO is increasingly responsible for transforming business operations, IT leaders do not have the time to consider the variable qualities of networks, data centres and security settings. The modern CIO needs to be strategic, not mundane, and must avoid getting bogged down in technical details.
Help comes in the form of the IT manager. Often viewed as a tier-too-far below the CIO, the IT manager actually provides the key to sales for suppliers in the digital business. Strategic CIOs look to their trusted IT management-level lieutenants for decisions in specialist areas. They look to the data centre manager for the call on using storage from a particular provider, they turn to the network manager for decisions on communications infrastructure and they search out the advice from the security manager for the implementation of leakage prevention technologies.
The nub of the issue is that the CIO is the person that signs off the recommendations made by their trusted confidants. And even then, the CIO might need a further level of OK from another c-level executive. But in the age of the strategic CIO, vendors looking to sell IT should make a beeline for the previously overlooked IT manager.
What do you think, does this sense of the ever-increasing importance of the IT manager resonate with your business? Do vendors continue to court the CIO when they should really be aiming for their senior IT sidekick?