Kaizen Infosource LLC

CIO, COO, CMO, CSO, CLO … CxO — Do titles really matter anymore?



Yes. Yes. And if there is any doubt to my position, Yes. Titles are more relevant and important than ever before. The management of business Information crosses business units and administrative units. It can be the turf on which internal wars are fought to control information. You would expect the “C” who “owns the information” will ultimately determine its management. But who does own business records? Can more than one or many “C’s” have enterprise level responsibility for the same information?

There has been an explosion of new versions of “C” level titles. I heard a new one the other day… CCO… Chief Cloud Officer. What about CLO? I have heard Chief Listening Officer and Chief Legal Officer. A CIO would more likely have a Director of Cloud Services, who would report to the CIO.

In the following scenario, which “C” has responsibility for managing information? The players are the “C’s” of Business Unit A, RIM, Legal, and IT. Business unit A creates business records. It is the business unit’s intellectual property. RIM controls the same data for governance, retention and disposition. Legal controls the same data for compliance, eDiscovery and legal suspense. IT controls the same data for security, keeping it available for normal production and for disaster recovery or business continuity. Just one piece of information. A series of electrical pulses. X’s and O’s, pixels on a flat panel, which must be managed by at least four “C” level departments. When managed well information can be the critical advantage in a strategic decision. When managed poorly it can be a liability that can cause impositions of sanctions, fines, and multi-million dollar judgments in court cases.

We operate within an expanding explosion of information, all of which must be managed to advantage. New titles recognize the evolution of new types of information, new ways to manage it, and new areas of responsibility within a company. Whether new “C” level titles evolve is a management decision which should be based on the strategic impact of how new types of information can drive products or services of a business model.

In generic terms, any “C” level position carry’s responsibility for applying evolved, specialized subject matter knowledge at both strategic and tactical levels, all for the benefit of an enterprise. Success as a “C” requires fulfilling the obligation to the company, in collaboration with peer “C’s” and board members. Success as a “C” requires a commitment to openly and objectively discuss the advantages and disadvantages of a potential policy direction, and accept the outcome of a decision that is well vetted. Stop waving that pocket watch in front of me and bring me back from this fantasy.

At its worst “C level” conveys the importance of organization position and ego over objective facts. “C” can be an unspoken grab of turf. “C” can embody back room arm twisting to personal advantage rather than the company’s. Board room decisions can be a rubber stamp for back channel arrangements in the interest of a limited few rather than the enterprise.

The failure of a “C” to objectively champion their area of responsibility, convey the needs of their business function, support their staff at the budget level, to meekly succumb to other “C’s” who know the “C’s weakness, yet with no practical knowledge of the “C’s” area of responsibility, control its operations and purse strings. The weak “C” can be as big a liability as the power hungry “C.”

“C level” reality is somewhere between the two extremes. At its finest, “C” collaboration allowed a company to open fifteen offices across the country and in Europe during a thirty month period. That does not include relocation of at least five existing offices during the same span. This could only have been achieved by collaboration, communication, empathy for peer “C’s operational needs, and dedication to fulfilling responsibilities in support of the strategic direction adopted by the company.

Titles come and go in form and fashion. The responsibility to perform that goes with a “C” title will never change.