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With IT disrupting most industries, is it now mandatory that a CEO knows IT. And if so, how versed in IT do they need to be?
Tuesday, December 10 2013, 09:35 AM
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    Tuesday, December 10 2013, 10:09 AM - #Permalink
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    Man, I hope so.
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    Tuesday, December 10 2013, 01:15 PM - #Permalink
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    Once we overcome the problem of tech illiterate CIOs, we can talk about CEOs. The main thing any exec has to recognize is the value of technology as a revenue enhancer rather than just unavoidable overhead. If the CEO understands only that much, well... that's plenty.
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    Tuesday, December 10 2013, 05:08 PM - #Permalink
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    Its difficult for any business to avoid the impact of digitization and thus every CEO will need some level of fluency. However, the danger is the "what" and the "how" get intermingled and sometimes its difficult to innovate because of this digital entanglement. I'm sure the craft beer brewer in rural Vermont has some of his tanks hooked to an iPad to monitor fermentation or some other process. A craftsman making leather products in New Mexico (some for digital products) leverages the Internet to market his products. Digitization is everywhere. I was thinking about a related topic earlier today while driving. I think it was Jony Ive of Apple who said the best technology is that which is undetectable (my words). In other words, effective technology merges itself into a culture or organization to the point its no longer an adjective. Today we talk about "digital natives" and digital {fill-in-the-blank}. Digital computing is merely one form of technology that aides us in business. Eventually the digital "stuff" we refer to will simply be transparent. Like a legal pad and pen. So digital literacy becomes necessary for citizens of the 21st century (insert picture of George Jetson here). But its transparent and non-differentiating.
    • Max J. Pucher
      more than a month ago
      Eric, I heartily agree on the transparency and vehemently disagree on the non-differentiation of technology. Those who know how to utilize technology first to improve the value they deliver to the customer will be the ones to succeed in the marketplace. To do that without understanding the opportunities that technology provides or do it with technology that is available to everyone is non-differentiating. Yes, everyone can buy an iPad but that alone is not the differentiator. Those who make use of the iPad with the right kind of software, those will be the first.
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    Tuesday, December 10 2013, 05:32 PM - #Permalink
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    I posted about it in 2009: http://isismjpucher.wordpress.com/2009/10/28/ignore-technology-at-your-peril/ "Once again, I don’t believe in process management methodologies. I believe that processes have to be about people and for people. Not tell people HOW to do something but simply WHAT process results they are responsible for. Then give them the ability to perform a process as they see fit, while transparency up and down the management line is the key ability for achieving consolidated results. Well, you might want to even call that a methodology. It will have to be technology to deliver that dynamic process ability. Technology that embeds a certain methodology and worse certain processes are the reason why Nicolas Carr wrote ‘Does IT matter?’ in 2003. While Carr is right about the current state of affairs, he is wrong about technology in principle. Technology is changing the world not management methodology. Technology will be the key competitive advantage. Technology that helps people to identify strategic opportunities, as well as execute and verify … all in one place without intermediate process implementations. ... But yes, business schools need to make students aware that without understanding of information technology their ability to manage will be dramatically impaired. That leaves one question: Who will tell the current league of CEOs that they need to go back to school?"
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    Wednesday, December 11 2013, 04:20 AM - #Permalink
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    Is it the job of a CEO to be aware of how technical is the company he runs? I am not really sure. In many industrial companies, CEOs knows that robots are mandatory in today's factories. But do they know exactly the brands and models, and how to program them? They also know that the company have a very big information system. But do they run sql querries by themselves? Many startup founders in IT, be it B2B or B2C, used to develop and write code at the beginning of their company. Once it is big, do CEOs continue to write code, or are they working on business development and strategy? On a ship, the captain take the decisions, then officers take their part depending on what they manage, and their team do the job. Do the captain really knows how the motor is working in details, or how to fix it? However, he knows how important the motor is. IMHO, the job of a CEO is very different depending on the size of the company, and its business. The common point is that CEOs have to give the right direction to make their company succesful. They have to understand the environment of the business, the evolution and changes of this environment, and more. But they can't be experts in everything. That is why they try to hire the best people for Sale, Communication, Production, ... and IT. Of course, I know that it is a simplification.
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    Wednesday, December 11 2013, 04:52 AM - #Permalink
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    It is very important that business buyers understand exactly what they are buying into. This is an interesting article http://www.eaconsult.com/2013/12/11/one-opentext/ explaining why and how the big players “after years of merger and acquisition, in which dozens of products and thousands of customers were dumped helter-skelter into a single corporate bucket, yet another agglomeration of disparate products, services, and technologies is trying to rationalize its offerings.” A scene that a CEO will just not even try to understand and frankly will be rightfully cynical of the end result. A CEO will always rely on technologists to ensure reliable connectivity with security but not really need to understand the techie language or technologies used. He sees this as the job for the CTO or more likely outsource this requirement. However when to comes to his business processes we are finding real interest on how the build of all business driven requirements in their language actually works. He understands the need for; rules, calculations, state, time, collaboration flows, events, escalations all linked to content management and orchestration of required data from any source. When they realise all this is in one tool that allows his business people to regain control of their business processes without requiring coders, the CEO and the CFO “get it”. The big problem does the CIO get it …..?
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    Wednesday, December 11 2013, 02:57 PM - #Permalink
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    CEO: Shall we out-source our IT department? CIO: Is IT strategic for the company? CEO: Yes, sure. OK. IT will stay in-house. CEO: Now, we want to work fully digital. What actions are proposed by the IT department? CIO: Convert faxes to e-mails and explain to staff how to scan via all multi-functional printers. …. Agree with David – is a current CIO the best person to bring to the board how to realize the synergy between business needs and technology potentials? Thanks, AS
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