A discussion with Geoff Yeats, CIO of Farmers Mutual Group at the recent CIO Summit, got me thinking about the crafting of the CIO’s ‘elevator speech’. The scenario: What would be your two-minute pitch to describe your role and what you can deliver, to a ‘very important stakeholder’ — in this case, the CEO or the board?
“Whether you pitch it in business terms or technology terms, it will give you a breadth of the experience” of the CIO concerned, he says.
For Yeats, the answers will be varied and not any of them is necessarily wrong. Being the most senior person in the enterprise responsible for ICT is by itself a maturing profession. For Yeats, the classic definition of the CIO role remains – it is about “people, process and technology”.
Now, here is the quandary, according to Yeats: “Are you a one- trick pony, and you just take your tricks to different organisations, or do you present new tricks depending on who the audience is?” The challenge, he says, is not to be that “one trick pony”.
In our conversation, Yeats posed the concept of ‘interference’ and its link to innovation, another term that invariably goes hand in hand with the CIO’s responsibility. Yeats, however, has a more stern definition for what should be labelled as such. For him, innovation is not all about improvement of something already there. Innovation is where you actually apply knowledge, experience and technology to an area that is outside of what they have been designed for.
As a CIO, you see across the whole business. You can’t possibly know about every part of the business, but you can take what is working and see if it works in another part. “You end up interfering, crossing other parts of the organisation. That drives innovation,” says Yeats.
Which brings me to the contemporary CIO’s ‘elevator speech’ – with CIOs coming from different backgrounds, sectors, persuasions, and new and more responsibilities — crafting this short discourse will be a very complex task.
I am keen to hear your views on the content of the CIO’s elevator speech, as it will apply to your respective organisations — and to share them with your colleagues in our next issue.
The author is the editor of CIO New Zealand.
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