A CXO syllabus

Educating your CXO is “incredibly important,” says Mark Jeffery, assistant professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His MBA class, called “Enterprise Technology for General Managers,” aims to give business executives enough technology smarts to “not shoot themselves in the foot,” he says. “They really do need to have a clue.”

His basic syllabus for the educated CXO:

What can happen if you don’t manage technology well. The class hears stories like this: In 1999, Hershey Foods Corp. went live with an ERP/CRM/supply chain system the month before Halloween. The system failed, crippling sales and causing a 35 per cent stock hit.

The language of technology. “They’re not going to be Java programmers, but they need to know what bandwidth is; not how a network works but enough to understand why you need one; and why the investment in infrastructure is so incredibly important to the competitiveness of the firm,” says Jeffery.

Corporatewide systems like ERP and CRM. The class learns what they are, what they do and that they are “very, very complicated,” he says.

Why CXOs need risk management skills. Since 72 per cent of large projects are late, over budget or don’t deliver anticipated value, Jeffery says, “if you’re a sponsor of a project, you’ve got a 28 per cent chance of success. That’s why.”

What can happen if you botch security. When The Bank of New York Co.’s data centre and primary backup centre were wiped out on 9/11, the bank’s secondary backup centre in New Jersey was overwhelmed. “It couldn’t process transactions, and its stock took a beating,” he says. “They need to learn the importance of redundancy.”

Technology trends such as Web services, XML, data warehousing and analytic CRM. “They need to understand how those trends will impact management decisions,” Jeffery says.

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