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Why Your CIO Thinks You're Boring

        posted by , November 14, 2011

Be interesting.

It's good advice for any enterprise architect who has face time with the CIO — but it's easier said than done.

EAs don't have a monopoly on architecture. CIOs hear a lot about architecture from IT directors and managers, IT project teams and business teams (business architecture). Your CIO has (likely) been flooded with flowery architectural promises for years.

Want to stand out from the crowd? These 7 tips will get you there:

1. Solve Immediate Problems

Long term strategy is fine — but it's likely to make your CIO yawn.

Your CIO lives in a what have you done for me lately world.


In other words, your CIO has pressure to solve problems today and has little interest in your five year plan.


2. Be Brief

Forget about the scope of enterprise architecture.

Forget about solving all your CIO's problems.


Develop a brief and compelling message and be ready to talk about more. Solving one or two of your CIO's priority problems is more than enough for one meeting. Remember, that your goal is to establish an ongoing relationship with your CIO.


3. Be Unique

Your CIO talks to a lot of people.

Your CIO is (likely) already aware of many architectural issues and initiatives.

Your CIO is (probably) one of the few people who understands your IT organization better than you do.


Make the safest assumption: that your CIO is already aware of the problems you plan to highlight. This pushes you to go a little further: to come up with a unique solution to the problems at hand.


4. Be Flexible

Remember that your first slide may send your CIO off on a tangent.

Your goal is to sell your solutions, your ideas and your abilities. When your presentation isn't going the way you envisioned — just run with it.


If you don't get through your presentation — it gives you a great excuse to book more face time. View tangents as more time with your CIO.


5. Develop compelling visuals

The importance of visual communication has been drilled into us all (adnauseum). The only reason I mention it here is that some EAs still don't get it.

Visual Communication is a extensive topic I don't want to cover here. I will just point out 3 common mistakes:

using color for decoration instead of highlighting your message

presenting information when you should be telling a compelling story

cluttering slides with too much information



6. Make promises with tangible benefits (and deliver)

Real artists ship
~ Steve Jobs

EAs have a reputation for being hands-off or academic.

Ideas are great. But your CIO is more interested in people who can deliver. People who solve real problems.


You want your CIO to give you a mission. Avoid assigning yourself a task. You want your CIO to push you to do something — something achievable and important.


7. Leave your CIO wanting more

If you have been interesting your CIO will want to talk to you again. Ask for more face time (soon!) at the close of the meeting.

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