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CEOs want CIOs to stop using jargon and focus on business needs

Chief executives want CIOs to stop using 'tech speak' and improve collaborative working, according to a report from not-for-profit organisation Eduserv

Public sector CIOs shouldn’t underestimate the IT literacy of CEOs and need to focus on collaborative working, the organisation's use of data and solving business issues.

At a recent workshop, around 20 local government CEOs called on CIOs to “reshape their teams” to suit the future needs of the organisation, said a report by not-for-profit organisation Eduserv.

The report – based on the discussions at the workshop – said CEOs are knowledgeable about IT and how it benefits the organisation – but are frustrated with IT teams' use of jargon and business cases.

“Sometimes dealing with IT feels like heavy lifting all the time, trying to get behind and beyond the ‘tech speak’,” the report said, quoting one chief executive officer.

“Their frustration is with claims coming from IT – either suppliers or in-house teams – that they can ‘enable digital services’ or ‘deliver transformation’, without specific examples of real business issues solved by technology, with measurable outcomes relevant to the challenges they face,” it added.

Jos Creese, prinicipal analyst at Eduserv, chaired the workshop and said CEOs believe technology can help transform councils and enable efficiency.

“It is logical that CIOs should play a role in helping organisations realise these gains. The opportunity for heads of IT and CIOs is to step up to these strategic challenges, seizing the chance to assist CEOs in driving and reshaping their organisations into the future,” Creese said.

IT jargon misses business targets

However, public sector chief executives want CIOs to “stop talking about IT and focus on solving business issues".

“CEOs relayed a feeling that at least some IT professionals are still not in tune with real business needs and pressures, and are still too focused on clever technologies, rather than what it can do to transform service delivery,” the report said. It added that poor alignment of IT activity and business priorities remains an issue.

One of the main frustrations outlined in the report is the lack of data on how people access and use public services.

“While acknowledging the limitations of legacy systems, CEOs could not understand why IT seems to find it so hard to unlock data for wider re-use and provide better customer insight,” the report said.

Local authorities face constraints around budget and culture to change, and CEOs recognise that leading IT “is a tough role at a very tough time”.

In dealing with internal barriers, one CEO said IT teams must think about how they can work across different parts of the organisation to “reduce resistance to change”.

The report highlighted the need for collaboration and use of national frameworks across councils, urging CIOs to implement IT systems without proprietary lock-in, to link up with others.

Other requirements from CEOs include: Solving legacy IT problems; stop buying IT that won’t benefit the councils’ needs; and “doing away with Victorian ways of working” in IT teams. 

Read more about the issues facing CIOs

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Tech jargon may be the most destructive part of our business. It's off-putting to everyone but the jargonists themselves, sends would-be customers fleeing and demands a dictionary for even casual conversations. While most every industry has its own in-house language, shortcuts and acronyms, tech has taken it to the far limits, alienating the very people they're trying to reach. It's time to start speaking Plain Old English (or, if you prefer, POE)....
“Their frustration is with claims coming from IT – either suppliers or in-house teams – that they can ‘enable digital services’ or ‘deliver transformation’, without specific examples of real business issues solved by technology, with measurable outcomes relevant to the challenges they face.”

"Enable digital services" or "deliver transformation" is not a tech jargon. It sounds like sales pitches.
I don't know, I feel like frequently, when someone is promoted into the role of CIO, they're already fairly far removed the 'tech speak'. That has been my experience, anyway.  It usually turns out that the CIO has been in management for years and is no longer familiar with the latest tech terms and trends. 
Many years ago I was translating company brochures from Jargon into English (yes, it really does get that bad) so consumers could understand them. The work went well, mostly, until one CIO said my copy made no sense whatsoever. He insisted I restore every acronym and every phrase. "That's not jargon," he lectured me, "it's how we talk." I understood what he wanted, mostly, and I'm certain his IT department understood all of it. But I can't vouch for those new customers he was hoping to attract. As @agareev points out, it takes specific examples to understand the conversation.

That kind of private conversation is endemic to every business. For example,
I make movies. To me and my crew, it makes perfect sense to put a blonde on sticks, get a cookie for the redhead or bag the baby. But that's all in-house talk, unfit for public consumption without explanation. I'd never use those terms when I'm courting an investor or hiring an actor. Different worlds, different needs.