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Why the C-Suite Needs to Listen Harder to CIOs

Mar 28, 2013

Why the C-Suite Needs to Listen Harder to CIOs

CIOs are constantly being told that they need to think more like CEOs, that they need to think in business terms, that it's their responsibility to manage up.

But a recent article is saying the opposite goes for the rest of the C-suite: they need to be talking to their technical people more about what's going on in the IT department and what they can provide.

Before going off half-cocked following the latest technology trend, the C-suite should ask what their IT people think, suggests the recent article "Why Business Leaders Should Spend More Time with IT Leaders." "The savviest and most successful business leaders spout the words 'team' and 'talent' faster than they say 'cut costs' and more frequently than they answer their own smartphone," writes Pam Baker. "Unfortunately, most are not talking to their talent as often or as seriously as they should."

This is particularly the case with the recent technology trend of "data scientist," Baker writes. "You could, of course, have elected to pay money to experts to sort out whether or not you needed to hire one or more data scientists, or you could have simply gone downstairs and discussed the issue with your team," she says. "Odds are, providing you truly do have talented individuals on your payroll, that your own people would have told you that data is data, buzz words like Big Data be damned, and that 'data scientist' is also a buzz word and the talent you need is already onboard."

Baker was riffing off a Gartner blog post on the same subject, "Data Scientist -- Mystified." "A data scientist symbolizes to organizations a gaping hole: a magic that can turn big data into big gold by making sense of vast amounts and multiplicity of senseless bits and bytes (or zettabits and petabytes?)," writes Gartner research director Svetlana Sicular. "The data scientist is a savior who (if found) can solve all big data problems, so companies will not have to worry about figuring out how to do it themselves, all they need is to catch two or three really good data scientists, no matter what they are."

Instead, Sicular writes, organizations should focus on making better use of their own people, and, if necessary, giving them the training they might need to be able to become "data scientists" on their own. "The picture, as well as my more in-depth research, shows that companies should look within," she writes. "Organizations already have people who know their own data better than mystical data scientists -- this is a key. The internal people already gained experience and ability to model, research and analyze. Learning Hadoop is easier than learning the company's business."

Putting together a team of technology and business experts and supportive management will create a safe environment for innovation, Sicular writes. "The team members with diverse skills will inspire and enrich each other: their combined knowledge will be the power to develop analysis and bring new insights."

Not to mention, having their opinions actually sought out and listened to, and being included in high-priority projects rather than seeing expensive consultants being brought in to do all the fun stuff, is likely to improve morale and save money in the IT department as well.

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