Yesterday, I co-hosted a CIO panel session organized by the local TiE-Rockies group. We had quite an accomplished group of CIOs in the panel. It included:
- Kamalesh Dwivedi – CIO of TeleTech. A public company in global BPO space
- Tim Graumann – CIO of McData. A public company in Storage space.
- Kumud Kalia – CIO of Direct Energy. Growing energy firm in the North East and Canada
- Patrick Hellman – CIO of Mercury Company. A private company in real estate business
- Session was moderated by Jim Conboy, a partner at Wolf Venture and a local VC.
All are accomplished individuals in their own right and shared some insight of their challenges. Hopefully entrepreneurs were paying attention for opportunities that they can create to help ease CIOs pressure.
Some discussion – pay attention entrepreneurs, if you are looking for ideas or pitching to CIOs – were:
- Challenge in keeping up with the turn over of employees in certain industries. Having a solution that can enable fast employee on-boarding and quick ramp up of knowledge will ease pain.
- Integration with various suppliers and systems remains a challenge – particularly in the unregulated industries. Discussion was standardization, common vocabulary and integration. How to quickly enable 360 degree view of customer.
- Skillset demand in the IT industry is shifting from programmer to more of an analyst who understands business process has business skills, knows/configures/tests the functionality, etc. is more in demand than a programmer.
- If you are targeting CIOs to sell – don’t start with them. Start with their reports or managers so that you already have a relationship established with the people who will actually do the work and influence the approval process before reaching out to CIOs. This will help you since CIOs anyway will delegate the task of review/analyze to their reports. So start at the right level.
- CIOs are going to be risk averse from the get go. They are hard at work balancing risk between keeping the business running on everyday basis (can’t stop the business and get fired) as well as ensuring their company can grow/launch/penetrate new market/product (can’t have systems that will prohibit company growth or get fired). So tailor your pitch to CIOs need rather than just another cool invention.
- CIOs are not too concerned about outsourcing since much of the development anyway is done by Oracle, SAP and Microsoft of the world. They are typically configuring and using a system to the best use for their business processes – which is not a common skill to outsource. Also see #3.
- CIOs are waiting and watching hosted/SaaS model. On one hand it is good for them as they have a service provider that can be held accountable and need to conform to their SLAs of quality, availability and security. On the other hand of loosing control – CIOs are just too good at deflecting question for now.
- CIOs are increasingly confident of the secured perimeter around the company. It is strong and hold back external agents from penetration. They are more concerned about fraudulent use of company property by internal folks or company employees leaving their personal data outside of the company – like when visiting a doctor.
A good session with accomplished individuals – who shared their insight for budding entrepreneurs to understand and fulfill CIOs need.