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Chief IT Evangelical Officer

By: Ade McCormack

Ade McCormack is the author of The IT Value Stack - A Boardroom Guide to IT Leadership (Wiley, 2008) and IT Demystified. He writes a regular column for the Financial Times advising business leaders on business-IT issues He is the founder of Auridian, a people-development business focused on helping organizations get best value from their IT investment. For more information or to contact Ade, see www.auridian.com and www.itvaluestack.com.


The world is becoming IT-centric and the same is true for business. An IT-centric board is the first step on the road to an IT-centric organization. Once the top table gets this they need to sell the vision to the business. This requires nothing less than evangelism.

Evangelism requires a thick skin, strong interpersonal skills and knowledge of your offering. It also requires passion, persistence and the ability to build trust. Given these basic requirements, who should spread the word?

Today, when you ask many CIOs about passion, they presume you are referring to a niche software product. When you mention IT to the CEO, his eyes glaze over and he becomes motionless, perhaps a limbic response to handling a threatening situation such as a sabre-tooth tiger attack.

So at this point in time neither is suitably qualified to lead the associated business transformation. Consequently I believe we need a Chief IT Evangelical Officer (CIEO). Their corporate objective will be to lead the organization into a blissful state of IT enlightenment, where the staff is devoid of hatred and delusion in respect of IT.

As with any good evangelist, the CIEO will need to:

  1. Go on tour – A group wide blanket email (with a vision PowerPoint attachment) dispatched from a hermetically sealed gold fish bowl is unlikely to induce mass conversion. The CIEO needs to get out there and engage on the factory floor.
     
  2. Attract attention – A marketing campaign designed to prick curiosity in the unbelievers is required.
     
  3. Sell the benefits of the vision – Once the curious have committed to giving you some time, ensure they understand how they will benefit corporately and personally.
     
  4. Convert the unbelievers – Incentivize them to take IT-centric action.

Many CEOs arrive with good/great sales skills. Many are visionaries. But as mentioned IT can induce an allergic reaction. IT avoidance through abdicating this ‘problem’ to the CIO or CFO is the usual coping strategy. It has been known for the CEO to be the CIO, which would be a perfect profile. But such groundbreaking hybrids are very rare.

Failing that, getting the CEO up to speed and in love with IT is the next best thing. Though a prolonged course of homeopathic desensitization will need to be budgeted for. However your business may not have the luxury of time.

Getting the CIO to be a politically skilled salesman is another ambitious alternative. More realistically this is more likely to involve succession planning than development. Look out for inspirational project/program managers and fast track them.

But on reflection, the skills and qualities needed are those most associated with successful business developers.

So what about making the Sales Director responsible for evangelizing IT to the business? If one could offer a model that paid commission on each convert, it might just work.

And keep in mind that these guys certainly know how to party. Lets face it; IT needs to be sexed up (or even hexed up (an IT joke)).   Forget Bluetooth. Think blackjack.  Those that demonstrate intelligent application of IT to their role get the chance to sample the Ocean's 1011 (eleven in binary (yet another IT 'joke')) lifestyle.

Forget web services. The cab drivers, door men, pimps, conmen and waitresses will mobilize into action as this new breed of punter rolls into town to the digitally remastered rendition of 'Vista Las Vegas'.

Thank you. Thank you very much.


© Copyright 2008, Ade McCormack

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