An opinion article penned by Ashwin Rangan of MarketShare Partners, Understanding Tomorrow’s CIO’s, appearing on SandHill.com, caught my interest. The premise of the article is that the next generation of top technology executives will be a different breed, with a different focus of management competencies and traits. This article was written primarily to inform software and technology companies on how to best market their products to this new breed of manager.
I’d like to add some of my own thoughts, building on Ashwin’s perspectives. His article points to key competencies in which tomorrow’s technology leaders will differ from those in the past:
Business-driven vs. brand-driven goals, as well as open-mindedness– namely that software applications that are brought into the company must no longer just pass the “brand name” test, but also provide a strong value proposition which will either reduce cost, grow revenues, improve productivity, or contribute to all three combined. It seems to me that this implies a bit more open-mindedness toward applications to address specific business needs, or more tendencies to evaluate SaaS, Cloud Computing, mobile or other forms of outsourced IT infrastructure models to provide more efficient IT cost structures. In my view, the new CIO will no longer function as the “gate-keeper” of technology, but rather the business advisor and change agent that balances business needs to logical technology options.
Business background– the premise here is that rather being the most tech savvy executive for the organization, the need may instead focus on the being the most knowledgeable in understanding business process and decision-making needs. Rather than the expert on “how” IT architecture and systems are to be implemented, it may instead be the “what and why” of how specific business processes needs can be aligned to overall technology deployment options and plans. Last summer, I penned a posting titled CIO’s as Supply Chain Leaders, where I shared my beliefs that in certain organizational situations of large-scale supply chain transformation, it may make sense to have an executive skilled in broad supply chain management and operations leading the CIO function.
In terms of product marketing’s ability to connect with the new breed of CIO, Rangan points to what I believe may be some flawed advice.
Rather than helping the new CIO to be a change agent, I would argue that this executive wouldn’t have the position unless he/she had demonstrated competencies to drive change. Instead, product marketing should be helping the CIO to articulate the best value proposition for the proposed technology, as well helping with the internal educational needs for the organization. The focus should be on building educational awareness among the broader functional audience on the potential business and process benefits of the technology.
The second tip, understanding the business needs is a two-way focus. Too often, many smaller software companies try to instill their go-to-market sales model on broad categories of customers. I’ve found that no two businesses are alike, and that an industry specific or domain approach is far more productive in connecting with the specific needs of that business. If you are positioning supply chain related technology, you had better understand the buying persona of each of the supply chain functional teams and be able to assist those teams in understanding the specific product, business, and organizational benefits of the technology. This implies a pre-sales team that has broad or sometimes deep supply chain domain knowledge.
Finally, making the CIO look smart and engaged is a no-brainer. Technology players like IBM and others have been practicing this tenet for years. But too often, over zealous sales people cross organizational lines to close a sale, and sometimes alienate the functional teams who must implement both changed business practices as well as the new technology. The focus should instead be on insuring that a customer’s entire leadership team is successful as well as insightful in their decision. Never ignore a customer, especially after the sale. A customer’s success is your success, not the other way around.