HelpSystems Blog

“Confessions” of a CIO: How to Tackle the Toughest Business Challenges

The book, by Dan Roberts and Brian P. Watson, Confessions of a Successful CIO: How the Best CIOs Tackle Their Toughest Business Challenges, features nine of the ‘best CIOs in the business’  discussing how they’ve succeeded in high-stakes roles, at high-stakes times.

What’s good about the book is that rather than being a theoretical work on what makes a great CIO – it provides some interesting case studies on real challenges that CIOs faced in their business and how they actually tackled them.

The authors discovered that there was real value in exploring the experiences of top CIOs. Watson says, “Their stories were incredible—they needed to be told.”

Roberts says that the hardest task was selecting the CIOs. “To decide on who to feature, we called on some of the most prominent thought leaders in the CIO universe to help us pick this elite group.” A panel of noted authors, IT leaders, strategic consultants, and professors helped Roberts and Watson select their CIOs. Roberts says “Some come from large companies, household names, or recognizable brands, but that’s not what got them to where they are today.”

Profiles are used to describe each of the featured CIOs such as; “The Anticipator”, “The Rocket Scientist”, “The Fixer”, “The Conductor” – and even “The Accidental CIO”, and each chapter reveals their specific challenges and how they dealt with them.

In the book, Filippo Passerini, president of global business services and CIO at Procter & Gamble, says one of his most important leadership principles is “staying relevant”, an issue he drills into his IT teams.

“The only thing we’re interested in is being relevant to the business—creating value for the business,” Passerini comments in the book. “What can we do to be more relevant? This is a most critical question, and one we should ask ourselves every day.”

Steve Bandrowczak, another CIO, is senior vice president of global business service and business process outsourcing at HP, and has also had similar leadership roles for DHL, Lenovo, Nortel, and Avaya.

Bandrowczak talks in the book about the importance of “breaking the rules” when a tough situation demands it.

Bandrowczak was given the responsibility of leading a major business expansion at DHL, and soon realized he had a $1.5 billion problem —and the wrong team working on the issues. He and two executive colleagues quickly pulled all the best people from across his IT team and other departments and created a “rogue organization” that got the job done.

“Everybody on that team was dreaded and hated because they were breaking every rule,” he says. “Whatever it took, we did it.”

The book comes to the firm conclusion that to thrive as a CIO – it’s not about the technology; it’s about the guts.

Tech trends come and go, but the heart of a CIOs job is the challenge of bridging the gap between IT and the business and clearly demonstrate how IT can deliver real value.

So while CIOs take on more and more responsibility, and yes, of course technology matters – its leadership that makes all the difference.

In summary, being a highly successful CIO today is less about technology and more about taking risks, pitching big ideas and ‘inspiring your people to truly understand the business’.

That was the big message and the recurring theme when Roberts and Watson were interviewing the nine well respected CIOs in the world.