CEO, CIO, or Techy: Perspective is Everything

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Here’s a point about psychology that bears emphasis.  The language and vocabulary that you adopt when you answer questions reveals to others the kind of thinking you do.  It betrays—for better or worse—how you approach problems and execute your business strategy.   Executives want to talk about business issues like cost and security; they aren’t interested in drive sizes, lost packets, or network latency.  If you’re a technical person talking to an executive, or whether you are an executive talking with your IT Manager … perspective is everything.

Using the right vocabulary will ensure your conversations don’t run at cross-purposes.  From the executive (“C” Level) perspective, remember this rule of thumb: the more technical the dialogue you find yourself in, the more disconnected the IT person is likely to be from your business strategy and concerns.   And this lesson holds true for the technical folks … Don’t get bogged down in details when your talking to an exec.

Here’s an example: imagine you (CEO) approach your IT Manager or Director, curious about IT efficiency and effectiveness in the business.  You ask “How are you ensuring that IT provides returns on IT spending?”  Notice that this question really gets to the heart of why IT organizations exist.  The simple operating principle is that IT must provide returns greater than the dollars invested in it.  If the response you get is “we’re rolling out Voice over IP (or some other technology solution)”, this person is thinking too technically; they are missing the point of the question … they are missing the point of IT altogether.

Ideally, when you ask the IT Manager “How are you ensuring that IT provides returns on IT spending?” You want to hear something like this: “We are developing a process to ensure we track the spending on equipment so we are in continual alignment with the business.  We have reason to believe that a Voice over IP system will reduce our operating costs for communication systems.”

Notice the difference in perspective …

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