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CIOs: Are you your CEO's business partner or their gimp?

A Machiavellian guide for the modern CIO

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CIIIOs hit the road

It's time to hit the shop floor. Call in that promise from the sales guy for access to his people. Go out on sales visits, sit through pitches, man the tills, stock the shelves. Whatever your companies sales execution process is, get familiar with it. What technology are they using? Your average sales person has a technology quotient (TQ) that extends to a notepad and a pen, this approach results in people performing batch jobs at the end of every day with data that they want their sales manager to see. Switching this process to a real-time, per-sales-visit, per-transaction process that tracks what is being done throughout the day is an easy way to kick off your real-time data initiative.

Now let’s get to know marketing better. It won’t be fun, you will be doing it strictly for research purposes, but go and get drunk with the CMO and his agency wolves. Notice how the wolves are always a couple of drinks behind? Let’s fix that. A couple of shots of green chartreuse later they will be spraying agency secrets against the wall in the lane behind the bar.

Once you have tamed the wolves you will be in a better position to start preparing the marketing people for their sojourn into the world of real time. A common architectural platform for your web content combined with a common suite of web analytics and content management will allow you to analyse the impact of campaigns in real time. Measuring every asset in a common way will allow you to ignore ego bias and assess each facet of the campaign in a facts based manner.

Next comes finance data. What interests the CFO and what interests the CEO are two different things. CFOs are keen on the exceptional items in a balance sheet, they are more interesting to them as they usually represent the culmination of a large amount of disruptive work by the finance organisation.

It isn’t that the CEO doesn’t care about exceptional items, it is just that they represent decisions the CEO made in the past. Sales data, on the other hand, is a strong indicator of the success of those historical decisions and an even stronger indicator for the future. Sales data is the alpha and the omega for CEOs. Currency exposure, risk statements, spend against targets etc are all just the icing on the sales data cake.

Remember that the CEO is required to have tasty pieces of information for the board every month, so make sure he or she has them. (Why is it that whenever I think of board members I get a mental image of those two grumpy old men in the stalls on the Muppet Show?)

We now have all the components for the first and most important data feed you will give to your CEO. Marketing Activity + Sales Activity = Money.

Every subsequent report you deliver will have complementary information relating to the above - such as market share, margin, volume growth etc - but the primary report is a solid foundation for your CEO to measure his or her performance against.

The beauty of this is that this report is going to keep all the other C words busy enough to leave you alone. If marketing spend doesn’t result in a sales peak then questions will be asked. If the sales activity is not resulting in enough money, the sales guy has a job to do. Is money out exceeding money in? The the CFO needs to break out the budget hatchet.

Put it on their iPad, in pretty colours, pimp it out with data from public APIs and, most importantly, make it theirs. Give it a user experience that caters to the CFO, make sure it uses language your finance bod uses.

Over time you will be able to use this same approach to generate equally customised and relevant data feeds for the other C Words (except the R&D guy, ignore him) that will get you a seat at the big table and hopefully you will avoid hearing the words:

CEO: Where is the CIO?
CFO: “The CIO is sleeping.”
CEO: “Well I guess you’re gonna have to go wake him up now, won’t you?” ®

Warren Burns has held senior global roles at Universal Music and the consumer goods giant Unilever, where he served as Head of Innovation and was responsible for leading the Global Innovation practice and was instrumental in delivering high profile projects such as the future Ice Cream Cabinet.

Warren also holds advisory board positions for a number of Australian businesses and is a research associate for the Leading Edge Forum Executive Advisory Programme.

His consultancy, BurnsRED, helps customers understand how emerging technology will impact their business.

Bootnotes

Time for some disclaimers. The views contained in this article are the views of my employer. As I am my employer it would be weird if they didn’t.

In an age when industrial equipment is required to have a sticker that says “Not for internal use” I feel compelled to point out than very little of my advice is designed to be taken literally.

I do, from time to time, make up words. I feel no guilt about this.

Some people may find the term “C Word” offensive, it is their sick mind that has made this the case; the term obviously refers to people who have “chief” in their title. Filthy buggers.

In no way am I implying that heads of sales divisions have substance abuse problems, it is a trick I learned through trial-and-error. I don’t understand the science behind it.

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