Most of us have experienced something similar. Your car coughs and splutters and then groans to a halt. You hopefully lift the bonnet but hopelessly gaze down on a meaningless tangle of wires and smooth black boxes. You surrender yourself to the nearest expert who tells you that your jiggle-shaft is out of alignment with your crockle-timer or some such nonsense. You passively hand over your credit card…
It seems that many CEOs are now in the same position with regard to IT; meaningless wires and black boxes and total reliance on experts who routinely baffle them with jargon.
“So what?” says the CEO. “I don’t run an IT company so why should I worry?”
Except that today just about every company is an IT company. Whether you are in retail, finance or manufacturing IT will underpin your systems and processes and more importantly will usually offer your key competitive edge. IT manages and pays your personnel, IT controls your suppliers and their costs, IT manages your prospects and analyses your customers, IT measures and monitors your sales and IT provides your shop window.
Nonetheless many CEOs are happy to be IT-illiterate, to treat IT as an esoteric sideshow. I often come across companies where the IT department reports to the CFO presumably because the department is not considered important enough to merit a CIO or CTO or because the IT department has been tacked onto an existing organization structure.
Today’s CEOs need to understand IT – at least at a high level. They need to understand the applications their organizations use, who provides them, where they reside and what happens in the event of failure. They need to know what data their company produces, how it is processed, what it is used for and how it is stored. They need to understand the risks and rewards of the “cloud” and why a public cloud is so different from a private cloud. They need to know the resilience of their Data Centre, whether it is has space for growth and how much it costs. They also need to be aware of new developments in technology and how these will affect the company over 5 to 10 years.
IT is as fundamental to corporate success as personnel. No-one would accept a CEO who doesn’t understand HR - the rules of hiring and firing, training & development, employment laws and management structures. In today’s world no-one should accept a CEO who doesn’t understand IT.