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Trust is so crucial to the CIO relationship

A lot of CIOs still use gut instinct but also rely on the advice of their channel partner, which Billy MacInnes believes is good news

“You can have all the facts and figures in the world at your fingertips, kid, but in the end, sometimes you have to go with what your gut tells you.”

We’re all used to hearing that kind of comment in films and TV shows, usually it’s from a grizzled veteran to a rookie cop when they’re under pressure to make a momentous, possibly career-ending decision to take on the bad guys. It’s something of a cliche that they always end up going with what their gut tells them. Thankfully, they never have to ask their gut what they should do during a vomiting bug outbreak.

Anyway, that kind of thing might make for good cinema or TV, but here in the rather more sedate IT industry decisions are taken after a dispassionate evaluation and analysis of the data. After all, what role could the gut possibly play in an industry built on data, analysis and intelligence?

The answer would appear to be quite a lot. Surprisingly, many CIOs faced with a choice between their instinct and experience versus data and advice from third parties go with their gut. According to a study commissioned by Colt, 68% of CIOs base pressured decisions on instinct and experience, over and above any other criteria.

The study reveals that 71% of CIOs feel their intuition and personal experience is more effective than data intelligence when making decisions. It also reports that 76% of senior IT leaders go with their intuition even though it is sometimes at odds with the data or advice from third parties.

In terms of managing external events, responding to emerging customer requirements or dealing with changing compliance regulations, respondents believe professional experience is more important than using data and intelligence.

Colt argues that the reliance on personal experience may have something to do with the increased individual risk that senior IT leaders feel when making decisions as IT has acquired a more strategic role in the business.

As Carl Grinner, EVP at Colt puts it: “When the stakes are high and a CIO is feeling the pressure to make the right decision that will result in business and career success – the natural reaction is to draw on instinct and professional judgement.”

Which may be true, but the study throws up a couple of other questions for me. For instance, why don't CIOs trust the data to make important decisions? Does this suggest they don’t actually trust their own systems when it comes to making decisions that could affect their careers? If so, is the data and intelligence they’re being asked to base decisions on not good enough? Is it, perhaps, not properly aligned with their decision making? If not, who is to blame? Aren’t CIOs responsible for the data policy in their organisations?

The good news for the channel is that 76% of CIOs cited trust between suppliers as the most important element to ensure successful outcomes during pivotal moments and 78% view technology partners as a source of technical innovation.

Although, given their reluctance to fully trust the data or third party advice, I suspect that sometimes CIOs approach the trust issue along the lines of “Thanks for the data and advice guys, but I’m going to have to go with my gut and you’re just going to have to trust me on this one.” Where does that leave channel partners? As trusted advisers, I guess they should make sure they have a supply of antacids to hand if anything goes wrong.

This was last published in December 2015

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I’ve seen a shift towards having a CIO that is not only conversant with the business, but comes from the business. Under this model, the CIO is more of a business partner that, having the trust of the business, works with them to identify their needs, and then takes that to the technical people in IT to be developed and delivered.
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