App developers say their CIOs are clueless

As CIO you hold one of the most critical executive positions in your organization. And, to lead successfully, you must earn the respect of both the business and your information technology organization. But earning the respect of application development professionals is no easy task: The CIO position has been a revolving door as of late and many application development professionals have become cynical. Go figure.

“My CIO is clueless.” These are words you don’t want to hear if you want to earn the respect of your application development professionals. So how do you avoid being a clueless CIO? Steer clear of these behaviors:

1. The CIO is a control nut. If you want to be a Controller then get a job in the accounting department. Okay, so maybe you are not a certifiable control nut. Maybe it is just a strategy you are employing because your direct reports can’t get the job done. If this is the case, then control is not the solution. Have the courage to replace those managers that aren’t strong. Control won’t work in the long run anyway.

2. The CIO is aloof. Stop thinking about your golf game. You may have a great team-strong individual managers and team chemistry-but your leadership is still necessary to keep things on course (not the golf course). Besides, no matter how much you practice, your golf game will still be mediocre, but you can be at the top of your game as CIO if you work at it.

3. The CIO gulps vendor Kool-Aid. Did you know that there are more than 34,750 registered lobbyists in Washington, D.C., for just 435 representatives and 100 senators? That’s 64 lobbyists for each congressperson. I wonder how many vendor account managers there are per CIO. You are smart enough to know that vendors are trying to sell you and you won’t be fooled wholesale. Yeah right. Their influence can eat away at you without you even realizing it. Be even more skeptical than you are now. Just say no.

4. The CIO is a technical dinosaur. Unless you are running for president of the United States, experience does matter. Technology has changed since you were writing RPG on the mainframe umpteen years ago. And for you younger guys who made your bones writing VB or Java Web apps, make sure you know why there is so much buzz about Ruby on Rails and multicore programming. Your ability to talk tech will go a long way to earning the respect of application development professionals.

5. The CIO is ubergeeky. Application developers respect a CIO who has deep technical knowledge, but your job is to lead, not to tell them how to architect systems, write code or tap an Ethernet coaxial cable. Rise to your leadership position and trust your technical people to get the job done. And if you don’t trust them then you are either a control nut (see number one) or you don’t have the right people.

6. The CIO thinks changes can happen overnight. Sorry to have to break this to you: You are not a wizard and your magic wand doesn’t work.

7. The CIO doesn’t know the difference between resources and talent. The fastest way to lose respect is to put clueless managers in charge. Clueless managers equal clueless CIOs. Can you ever imagine Doc Rivers, coach of the 2008 world champion Boston Celtics, talking about player resources like they were interchangeable? “I need two guard resources.” “I need a center resource.” No. Talent and teamwork make winning teams. Talent matters. Don’t pay lip-service to talent. Find a way to locate and use the talent in your organization. You will only be as good as the team you assemble.

8. The CIO collaborates to death. Whether it is the character flaw of being indecisive or some middle-school notion of democracy, you are in charge. Collaboration is critical, but you also need to make the right decision at the right time. Collaborate like Captain Kirk. “Spock?” “Bones?” He gets opinions from his experts but there is never any question about who will make the final decision. And, if you never watched Star Trek then you shouldn’t even be a CIO.

9. The CIO spends all of his time trying to get promoted to CEO. Not gonna happen, sailor. Despite the seemingly perfect career path for CIOs, it just doesn’t seem to happen. Only a handful of CIOs ever got the top job at any of the Fortune 500 companies. Keep your secret aspirations to become CEO to yourself or change your aspirations. Application developers need to know that you are there for them-that you are not CIO du jour.

To Thine Own Self Be True

Leadership can take many forms and styles but one thing all successful leaders have in common is that they earn and keep the respect of the rank and file. Be your own leader and maximize your success by earning the respect of your application development professionals and avoid being a clueless CIO.

Mike Gualtieri is a senior analyst at Forrester Research where he serves application development and program management professionals.

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