There are two principal reasons why a CEO might lose some sleep over their CIO:

 - The CEO thinks they aren't doing a great job
 - The CEO doesn't know what kind of job they are doing

Let’s explore.

Let’s look at the downside first. A CEO may be thinking that the company systems just may not be able to take the strain.  Those niggling outages are starting to worry them. 

The CIO waving the issues away as trivial may be the right reaction from the IT department's perspective, but that may not enough assurance for the CEO. In fact, the worst thing that can happen is that the CIO just does not communicate clearly, with authority and at the right level to reassure. Half the time the CEO cannot even understand the CIOs reasons not to panic.

The CEO might sleep a little easier if the CIO had a decent team but they are all nerds. The CIO really should hire one or two class acts to manage the business interface but just won’t go for the right calibre.   

The CEO thinks that if the CIO had some talent in depth it would be less scary and maybe there would be a better communicator on board.

What is really worrying the CEO is the move to multi-channel operations and how the business seems increasingly wide open to IT failure in more of its operations. 

With larger numbers of customers and more revenue moving through the website, the CEO feels he needs greater assurance from the CIO that all will be ok.

Layer on top of that the fact that two competitors have recently launched integrated loyalty initiatives that are winning positive PR and probably sales

The CIO insists that the IT function is focussing on quality and stability, but it's a defensive posture, and that's making the CEO start to think that IT is retarding innovation, not driving it.

All these uncertainties have made the CEO get increasingly nervous about IT costs and value for the enterprise.  With the CIO blocking moves to bring in a benchmarking consultancy as an unwelcome distraction, the writing for the CIO is increasingly on the wall.

On the other hand the CEO was delighted that the stability issues have at last gone away. They are reassured that the new IT governance and prioritisation committee is absolutely clear what is going on with IT, especially as the newly recruited Deputy CIO is clear, lucid and very organised. 

This has freed up the CIO to focus on ecommerce and drive the company revenues through those very well engineered minisites the new IT partners have delivered. 

In fact it’s been such a turnaround the CEO hopes that the CIO will hang around.  Maybe the bonus award and a crack at the COO seat will ensure that.

Alan Mumby is Head of the UK Technology, Entertainment & Communications Practice at Odgers Berndston

Pic: Lisa Brewster cc2.0