The position of CIO in any organization is a challenging one. He has to deal with various people within and especially his seniors. He derives his powers from the defined set of duties and responsibilities assigned to him and the support that he gets from the CEO and other senior functionaries in the organization. He draws out his IT Strategy based on business needs and he executes his plans in consultation with the CIO and other business heads. He has often to take dictats from some of these senior members, and at other times he has to listen to his professional ethics, conscience and sense of propriety. It is a fine balance – a tight rope walk that he has to carefully tread on.
One question that comes to his mind is – whether he is working for his boss or the organization. If his boss asks him to carry out a task which in his judgment is not proper he has clear his throat, pick up courage and speak out his opinion. If he still is unable to convince his boss about his line of thought he has to exercise his discretion and act in a manner that is good for the organization and at the same time ensuring he doesn’t compromise with his principles. A tough task you might say but the CIO has to work an honorable way out for coming out of such situations. Let me describe a few instances from my experiences to explain the matter.
Pressure from boss to recruit a new person
The CFO to whom I was reporting to, asked me to interview and recruit a person who was related to one of the Directors on the Board. Not finding him suitable (as he was not even a graduate and had no knowledge of the platform we were working on), I rejected his candidature. Two weeks later he appeared again with the recommendation of my boss saying he has undergone a 10 day course and learnt the language referred to. I still found him unsuitable and wrote out my remarks accordingly. My boss then gave me sermons saying I should be more mature and practical and asked me to change my remarks. I try explaining to him but he still refused to listen and therefore I suggested that he overrule my decision and instruct me to take him in. However he did not have courage to take responsibility himself and hence let the matter pass.
Instruction of CEO for acquiring certain equipment
Our CEO who had joined a year before asked for a similar hardware as he had in the previous organization. Soon after I joined the company I was asked to finalize the hardware details and place orders. I however felt uncomfortable with the old hardware platform which was getting obsolete due to emergence of new standards. When I suggested a fresh evaluation I received angry responses from the CEO and he was not on talking terms with me for the next six months but grudgingly allowed me to proceed. A year later after the new platform was acquired and after we had a few successful applications running he changed his mind and started extending his support.
CEO wanting commissioning VC just to prop up his image
This was a case some years ago when video conferencing had made an appearance and it was fashionable to have one running in the organization. Our CEO too wanted to boast of this facility in the comity of his peers in the industry and asked me to procure and install. His idea was to link the head office with two of our factories which were just 25 to 50 kilometers apart. I evaluated and expressed my opinion that this facility may not be used as people were used to meeting personally as the distances were short. Since he insisted I had to agree to assist him but excused myself from implementing the project citing busy schedule. He got it commissioned and except the first few meetings which were forced by the CEO, the facility remained unused thereafter – another example of wasted investment.
The case in point is that pulls and pressures do exist in organizations but we have to deal with them in an appropriate manner. We should either be clear and forthright in expressing our thoughts or be diplomatic but use our discretion to accept the situation or deflect it. Such issues should not get stuck in our ego but should be dealt with an open mind. There is no doubt there is an element of risk if our stand goes against the demand of the superiors but we have to take a call one way or the other. This is not just about a difference of opinion but one that stirs our conscience or challenges our professional standing. We should stand tall and act as appropriate.