News Analysis

CIOs failing to market themselves, survey finds

Warwick Ashford

Most CIOs are failing to market their achievements effectively even though most see it as essential to their careers.

A survey of 1,000 UK and other European IT executives by recruitment firm Harvey Nash found that 75% admit they are not doing enough to market themselves.

"Rarely does a CIO fail because of not having a good enough grip ontechnology, it is more often because that person did not have good influencing skills," says Cathy Holley, a partner at executive search specialist Boyden.

CIOs have done a good job in pushing themselves forward in terms of what benefit they can add to the business.

But they need good standing and influence with the board to fulfil this redefined CIO role, says John Whiting, managing director of UK IT business at Harvey Nash.

"If CIOs are going to influence what a board spends, when they are presenting a business plan they need the recognition and confidence of the board that they can carry it through," he says.

In a recession, CIOs need to prove to the board that they have an IT team that is fit for purpose and will help the business survive, says Holley.

"If the CIO is going to take that message to the board and be heard, they must already have a strong brand establishing them as someone the board can trust," she says.

Despite high levels of awareness, relatively few CIOs are using the large variety of tools available to raise their profile within and outside their organisations.

The gap between the high level of awareness and the low level of action is a time management issue for many, says Whiting.

CIOs are still not that good at putting aside the time necessary to raise their personal and departmental profiles, he says.

But, lack of action also stems from the widely-held belief that success will come purely from "doing a good job in IT", says Holley.

Many are brilliant at things such as analytics and problem-solving, she says, but do not have the emotional intelligence they need to be great leaders and win hearts and minds.

The CIO role now demands a lot more non-IT skills such as being able to influence and manage various stakeholders in the business.

"CIOs need to understand what makes people tick, who the key decision-makers are, and be able to alter their personal style to influence those people," says Holley.

CIOs who are inflexible and do not know how to adapt their style to get the best out of their team, peers and the board are doomed to fail.

Legendary CIOs are typically charismatic and take the time to invest in themselves and personal development.

"They take time to network and do not dabble in technical stuff. They empower their teams to do that. They hire the best people available and concentrate on being an ambassador for the IT function," says Holley.

Survey findings

  • 63% said there was a direct correlation between a CIO having a strong personal brand and the success of the IT department
  • 90% said that investing time in improving what peers and associates think about a CIO is very important
  • 75% admit they are not doing enough to market themselves
  • 14% maintain blogs regular blogs or represent their organisation externally
  • 40% do not keep their LinkedIn profiles up to date
  • 65% are getting out the office to ensure they are seen
  • 39% have researched how others in the business perceive them

How CIOs can improve their personal brand

  • Recognise its importance: Good personal branding is an important part of IT strategy that can help the whole IT department succeed.
  • Become an ambassador: Tell the world what you and your team are doing. Become a media contact for your company.
  • Research your brand: Know what it is and where it needs to be. Work out who needs to know about you and make a plan to communicate.
  • Get the message out internally: Make it a goal to meet people in the business and let them know how IT can support their goals.
  • Get the message out externally: Be one of the few CIOs that speak at conferences regularly or write blogs. Attend conferences and make a point of networking.
  • Get the message out consistently: Brand building takes time and needs to be consistent.

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