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Technology Leadership: Why CITO?

Written by Dan Woods | September 10, 2012 | 0 comments

CITO Research is on a mission to advance to the craft of technology leadership. We believe that we are at a defining moment for technologists. The rapid expansion of technology capabilities has set the stage for a new wave of innovation. The cost of technology has dropped dramatically because of open source, cloud computing, APIs, and other forces. Today every business has a huge array of choices. The question is what to do with all of this power?

What Kind of Leaders Should Technologists Be?

Ray Kurzweil pointed out that technology advances on a logarithmic curve, with long periods of preparation followed by rapid advances. The long periods of preparation create a foundation on which more and more powerful components are constructed. The rapid acceleration comes from assembling those components into new, more powerful forms to solve specific problems.

The IT industry is facing a challenge. Will business technologists be the equivalent of maintenance technicians who take care of this advanced componentry? Or will we lead the way in understanding the business and the power of technology to assist in creating products and services? At CITO Research we believe that it will be easier to train technologists in how to understand the business than to train business executives on the power of the vast and growing portfolio of technology.

User-Driven Innovation: A Framework for Creativity

We believe that Eric Von Hippel’s insights into user-driven innovation show what must be done to prepare both individuals and organizations to make new discoveries. Von Hippel's research shows that innovation blossoms when someone with a deep understanding of what is needed has the means to build a solution. We believe that CIOs and CTOs are in the best position to create those conditions in themselves and in the teams they control. We also have developed a new paradigm based on Von Hippel’s thinking called “The Question Game” that can help business technologists focus their learning so that practical and useful innovations result.

Adopting the CITO Mindset: CIO + CTO Thinking

To play a leadership role, business technologists need to shed some bad habits. First of all, we need to accept that both the CIO and CTO thinking are needed to do our jobs. Our CIO mind focuses on business needs, managing a portfolio of technology, and measuring its cost and the value it provides. We seek to reduce costs, add new capabilities, and prune those no longer needed. Our CTO mind seeks a deep understanding of technology capabilities, product and software development methods, and operations. The CTO creates the technology that is at the foundation of products and services. To do our jobs, we must have always have both roles in mind. Our name, CITO Research, is designed to make that point.

Overcoming the Raw Technology Persona

Second of all, we need to overcome aspects of our personalities and our way of thinking that lead us to be technologists but work against our success as we take on leadership roles. CITO Research has codified these aspects in a form called the Raw Technology Persona. People who are drawn to be CIOs and CTOs are creative, optimistic, innocent, mathematical, focused, and accommodating. Right now, most CIOs and CTOs are under the grip of the Raw Technology Persona, which systematically leads to the following situation. Our optimism and innocent nature leads to overpromise on what can be delivered. Our creative, focused, and mathematical nature drives us to focus on doing what we know, managing projects or building solutions, rather than looking at the big picture. Our accommodating nature prevents us from fighting for the resources we need.

As a result, most CIOs and CTOs are caught in a vicious cycle of always playing catchup, constantly falling short of expectations, disappointing the business, and never having time to exercise their leadership.

Avoiding a Technology Leadership Crisis

Finally, the pace of change is increasing, the footprint of technology is rapidly expanding, and control of technology now distributed because of consumerization, mobility, and the cloud. The stage is set at most companies for a full fledged crisis in technology leadership. The crisis shows itself when IT becomes overwhelmed managing the current portfolio, cannot connect IT investment to business value, and has no coherent plant for how to exploit the rising power of technology. The business cannot solve this problem on it own. Technology leadership is required.

At CITO Research, we believe that CIOs and CTOs can avoid the crisis by improving their management skills, becoming aware of the effect of the raw technology persona, and applying the principles of user-driven innovation.

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