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Another Symptom of “CEO Disease” – The “I.T. Hostage”

June 22, 2009 1 comment

The CEO steers the ship. He or she sets the course. It is from the CEO that the brand takes all of its cues. The CEO is the de facto Chief Brand Officer.

As a brand consultant, one of the symptoms of “CEO Disease” that I frequently see comes from the CEO’s own team. It’s when the CEO is taken hostage by his own I.T. department. They make technology a weapon, not a tool. And it’s more common than most CEOs want to admit.

It’s what happens when the CEO has an idea, an inspiration, or an initiative that gets stalled by the I.T. department. “Oh, our system can’t do that,” the CEO is told.  Or maybe its something like, “Sure, we can do that, I’ll just need a couple of new servers, some training and some new staff, but sure, we can do it.”

Bam! Idea dead before it starts.

What’s this have to do with marketing and branding? Marketers live in the world of “can” not “can’t.” We’re asked for strategies. We’re asked for plans. We’re asked for action.     As marketers, I’ve found the two biggest barriers to progress are accounting and I.T. With accounting, I get it. CFOs are paid to protect the financial interests of the company. Sure, we joke that they’re paid to say “no”, but someone has to. With I.T departments, it’s something else altogether.

Time and time again, I see a CEO’s plan or initiative thwarted by an overzealous head of I.T. They claim security issues, manpower, budgets, or technological impossibilities. I was in a meeting with a CEO just the other day when the I.T manager said, “Why would we pay you to rebrand our online presence when we can do it ourselves?” They’re the same breed of manager that thinks a website talking surgery will let you operate on yourself.

“CEO Disease” is the name we give to symptoms such as this which affect the CEO. Fortunately, there are cures. We believe that the CEO needs a vision, but more importantly, needs a team to support, implement, and live that vision. Sure, managers may occassionally need to challenge ideas. It makes the ideas stronger and healthier. But circumventing the CEO is not a part of the description.

How does the CEO spot this? Look for the motivations behind decisions. If they don’t stem from achieving the overall corporate mission, you may have a department head more interested in protecting his or her turf, and not interested in moving your vision forward. Seeking the advice from truly trusted advisors helps. Having a strong bullpen of experts doesn’t hurt, either. As brand consultants, we’re often in the thick of things. Some see that as a bad thing. I see it as a front row seat, one from which I’m often asked to advise from.

Technology needs to be used as a tool, not a weapon.

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