22 August 2005

Message to the CIO: Step up to the plate!

Complexity and confusion are overwhelming businesses everywhere. The bigger the company the bigger the problem. We are drowning in truckloads of data. It is supposed to be helpful but in fact it defeats its own purpose; information has become unwelcome: a cause of much pain and anxiety.

As Michael Doyle, a friend of mine, said to me recently:

“We’ve made vast improvements in the technology of communication, which now allow us to spread confusion faster and more effectively than ever before.”

Why is this happening?
The org chart is one problem. Communication is fragmented and disconnected in today’s organizations.
  • Training is held by HR.

  • Investor relations is the province of Corporate Communications.

  • Customer communications belong to Sales and Marketing.

  • The media and public probably belong to an outside agency.

  • Internal graphics teams belong to this or that department.

  • Relationships with sales channel and supply partners seem to fall through the cracks.

What happens when the ad agency makes a promise that HR can’t train people to deliver? Or when conflict arises between what investors and the public need to hear?

CIO, where are you?
We need you to help us communicate. Stop playing with technology! Stop accelerating our path to confusion and anxiety. Don’t get me wrong, the technology is great – I love it in fact – but our brains need to catch up with the potential. Our communication skills are still in the Neanderthal age.

Help us CIO, you are our only hope.
The CIO is the newest major role in the corporate world. Your title stands for Chief Information Officer. Your job is to turn data into knowledge, to help us find meaning and relevance from this chaos.

Someone needs to look across the organizational silos.

Someone needs to help us bridge the turf wars and territorial gaps.

Someone needs to help us be productive in the internet age.

Someone needs to tell the CEO, and the rest of the world, what being a CIO is really all about.

Someone must help us contextualize information, prioritize it, visualize our plans and mobilize them into action.

Someone needs to take on the true demons of the information age.

Step up to the plate, CIO. That someone is you.

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Erin said...

where is your RSS feed, please?

dave said...

The site feed is


I have added it to the links above.

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dave said...

Sure thing Dave.

Shirazi said...

Love the idea of communication.

Pam said...

The issue is how do we transform C level thinking to understand it is not about the technology? I would maintain most companies focus CIOs on technology because they've not been able to transition their focus and processes on the information/customers - technology focus becomes a safer bet.

Danny C. said...

You're on to something here - information overload (or whatever the latest FastCompany corporate-speak labels it). Let's just hope there is an audience patient enough to vertically scroll more than 1/10th of the way down the page.

How do you motivate corporatate minions to take the time to read, digest, and interpret all the available information that they're so damned intent on gathering? ("we don't know why we gather it - we just know that SOME day it will be important").

To get the CIO involved in any meaningful discussions - to bridge intra-departmental communications - will take an act of congress. [BTW... How's that communication initiative going between the CIA, FBI, Homeland Security, state and local agencies, etc.?]

The CIO can attempt to push their communications message out to the corporate silos all day. The real challenge is to get someone to listen.

Graeme Watson said...

The biggest challenge in effective communication though is not how we sort through the masses of information to share what is relevant, it is a step before this that is important. How do we stop collecting the masses of information to sort through.

Just becasue we have developed the abilty to know how many yellow widgets were sold on Tuesday dosen't mean we actually need to know.

The abilty to share and communicate information is only half the puzzle, how to stop the avalanche of information and the desire to collect all possible data, is the deeper challenge.

Danny C. said...

I have to respectfully disagree with Mr./Ms. Watson here.

Companies will forever be compelled to gather statistics to prove there are some form of measurable results. A good example of what can happen when you fail to track or measure appropriate information - HR is the first organization to be jettisoned at the first sight of revenue shortfall.

HR organizations have a horribly notorious reputation because these professionals attempt to communicate all those "people-crap" messages. If it doesn't relate directly with revenue, HR will never be anybody's A-priority.

Referring to Dave's current post, I doubt Merck officials will ever have the capacity to understand that they lost because they failed to connect with a jury made up of simpletons.

Andy Kanefield said...


I couldn't agree with you more. In fact, that's why I started Dialect. In helping a company with their communication objectives, we start by bridging the typical departmental boundaries you refer to and gain consensus around a company's authentic value.

We have found, as we talk to CEOs and other senior executives, that no one is helping them align external and internal communication. While I'm not sure that the solution will always be the CIO, I agree that someone has to "step up to the plate".

Andy Kanefield, Dialect, Inc.