Information Technology Management with a Purpose

May 2 2011   8:15AM GMT

Seminars: CIOs in captivity

S R Balasubramanian Profile: S R Balasubramanian

I have seen a good number of seminars being held these days in our towns with at least two of them happening every week. These are breakfast meetings, evening sessions or half-day events, usually packed with CIOs/ CXOs who are obliged to visit due to the intense follow-up on the invites sent to by the organizers. Most of the participants are familiar and we keep meeting them more often than we would desire. These seminars were held earlier during the busy months of winter & spring but are now organized throughout the year, just like cricket matches.

These events are arranged by vendors of hardware/ software/ services or by the media companies and sponsored by vendors. They all target CIOs who usually sit on huge budgets to be spent on IT goods and services. So there are two or three parties involved here: the vendor company that sponsors such events, the media company that organizes the meets and extends invitations (with vendors tagged along), and CIOs who serve as the target audience. Let us take a look at these three groups as they engage with each other.

The vendor: He gets an opportunity to display his wares and to put on an elaborate presentation describing the hardware, software, or the bouquet of services he provides. He tries his bit to convince the CIOs that his offerings are second to none and that they score over the competition on every front. He knows that this effect is reversible and can change soon as the CIO attends the next event organized by his contemporary, but he strives to build a mind share and hence sees potential for better business. He has his sales force as well who spread amongst the guests and strike a conversation with the CIOs during coffee/ lunch-break in an effort to win them over. The vendor execs have pre-approved budgets and not spending those budgets may not go down well with their top managers.

The media company: The media company convinces the vendors that it has a great influence over CIOs, and can, therefore, ensure a high CIO participation. It also proclaims to be better-equipped to manage events. Media companies use the occasion to widen their sphere of influence and to obtain news/ content for their next issues. They brand these programs and call them as their ‘properties’. This enables them to generate larger revenue for themselves. Usually, they laugh their way to the bank.

The poor CIO: Without doubt, these seminars would not survive if CIOs choose not to attend them. CIOs are spoilt and pampered by the vendors and are profusely thanked every time they attend such an event. A CIO is tied to the event and has to sit through the entire session, whether he likes it or otherwise, often yawning and eagerly waiting for the break, and for the cocktails to flow. He comes all the way for the event to fulfill his obligation to the vendor and / or to the media company who do a wonderful job of befriending him. It also serves as a welcome break for the CIO from his drab routine and gives him an opportunity to network with fellow sufferers from other companies.

So friends, this is a win-win-win situation, making each of the constituents happy, in one way or the other. Each one is benefited or thinks so and returns home with a sense of accomplishment. The cycle, thus, continues and the CIOs gather again to be a part of another spectacle. To prevent a burn out, organizers announce a grand event once a year where the honored CIO is taken on a jaunt to an exotic location either within the country or to some wonderful location abroad. But there too, he is made to sit in the seminar hall and then shown a place or two as consolation. All stay happy, however, and the story goes on. These are happy times for everyone.

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