Information Technology Management with a Purpose

Sep 19 2015   11:49AM GMT

Bitten by the Entrepreneurial Bug

S R Balasubramanian Profile: S R Balasubramanian

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CIO
CIO skills

I remember it was the internet boom of the late 1990s that threw up a new crop of entrepreneurs. Various technology professionals kicked away their lucrative jobs and set up studios and kiosks to offer new kinds of services including designing and developing web sites, doing web programming, developing new products catering to supply chain and customer relationship management. The subsequent internet bust spoilt the show and such professionals got back to employment, but entrepreneurship had taken roots.

But of late there has been an increasing trend of CIOs wanting to walk out of their routine jobs to start a venture of their own and be masters of their own time. This desire exists today at various levels ranging from those who are only a few years into the profession to those who are at the fag-end of their careers. The desire to start off anew is spreading fast amongst many and they are out exploring this new world of freedom. Ever since I started off on my own after superannuation I have had discussions with many and it is interesting to see CIOs daring to explore new avenues leaving the safe havens of secure employment of steady income. They are not really the Don Quixote kind of warriors but are careful adventurers who are planning their next mission. To understand them better, let me classify them into four types :

Wanting to do something big

They are the young brash warriors who have been deeply inspired by old heroes like Bill Gates, Micheal Dell, Narayanamurthy etc., the new crop of entrepreneurs like Bansals of Flipkart fame, Bahl of the Snapdeal and founders of Paytm, Foodpanda, Housing.com etc. They are quite unlike the traditional CIOs and have huge ambitions. I don’t know how many of them have really been able to hit the jackpot but they are great fellows in the making. Ideas like creating a new product or service have crossed their minds and these ideas are being tested in their laboratories. Let us wait and watch for one of them to make a leap and hit a new ground.

Bored of the routine and desire a change

These CIOs are not the very young but those who are midway into their careers. Having come this far they have realized that their staid job with limited rewards is not exactly the professional life they had bargained for. They want to put their carriers on a fast track and be their own bosses rather than know-tow to the uninterested CEOs, troublesome CFOs and hostile functional peers. They have started jutting their heads out of the window and looking for opportunities that can take them out into a world of freedom. They have been on a survey contacting various vendors and service providers trying to assess the market and their readiness for such services. They are convinced that opportunities exist for services like software development, implementation assistance, application maintenance, outsourcing of services, web hosting, integration with new platforms like social networking, mobility etc. They are on the prowl and may knock at your doors one of these days. Do engage with them and see if they can add value.

Out of job and don’t see any position of choice

These are CIOs who have toiled hard and delivered value at various stages in their career. However situations do not work out favorably in all cases and the poor CIO seeks the right environment where he can really prove his worth. The corporate world is often hostile and they are out in the wilderness trying to make sense of what the organizations are up to. Tired of the eternal search for the right organization and position, these CIOs decide to chart out their own path and kick-off their listless and boring jobs that are devoid of any excitement. They are also out in the open searching for their prey and may reach you traversing a long winded path, being unfamiliar with the art of selling or soliciting business.

Retired or about to retire

These are veterans who may have spent the best years of their work life solving complex issues and handling the toughest of customers. That they have survived all this while is a tribute to their ability to stand their ground in spite of the forces all around that try to sweep them off their feet. They end their term with their head held high and with their heart in the right place. However they still feel young and not yet ready to hang their boots. They think they have enough energy and acumen to guide smaller organizations that do not have the benefit of good advice. They take up various advisory roles and also offer to work as part time CIOs to help such organizations to evolve a clear IT plan and make technology work for them. With grey hairs on their heads they also fit in as guest faculty in many of the engineering and management institutions. This CIO group is all set to expand and grow.

So friends, CIOs are on the move. Armed with new confidence and courage, they are set to take on the technology world. There have also been moves to form groups or forums or to create together a new entity to give established firms a run-for-their-money. Watch out for this space and observe how things unfold over the next two years.

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