Who influences CIOs? Here's the top 20

The most in-depth research report yet released on CIO influencers makes its debut. Look at the list and see what you think.

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CIO Influencers (image from iStockphoto)

Every enterprise technology vendor wants to be friends with the CIO. Given that Chief Information Officers control much of the $3.5 trillion information technology market, this desire for closeness makes sense.

At the same time, most CIOs have put interference mechanisms to reduce the number of unsolicited sales calls they receive. Therefore, we see a gap between the desire of vendors to sell and the CIO's need for protection against the onslaught

Given this tension, it's no wonder that a cottage industry has sprung up around identifying people and organizations that influence CIOs.

The best CIO influencers do three things:

  1. Build relationships rather than sell
  2. Consistently add meaningful value to the lives of CIOs and their organizations
  3. Act in a credible, trustworthy, and reliable manner at all times

Building trust requires a significant investment of time with no expectation of a quid pro quo payback. It's a long road, but that's why we care so much about real CIO influencers.

Given the sheer number of people involved in the IT ecosystem, identifying top influencers is not easy. The firm, Apollo Research, has put together the most in-depth analysis of CIO influencers I have seen. The report goes into depth on 20 different market segments, looking at the top influencers in each group.

This chart shows the top influencers in each category:

CIO influence

Who influences Chief Information Officers

Some comments from the company's blog post about the report:

One surprise (until, that is, you see the quality of the content she publishes) is Martha Heller, the CIO recruitment expert. Martha has the second highest reach of all the people listed in the report reaching an exceptionally high 9.3 per cent of the CIOs in the sample...This reflects the fact that her content output, Twitter follower / following base and day-to-day focus revolve around the CIO community.

Perhaps surprisingly, there are only 10 technology analysts that make the top 300, but leading the way is Michael Krigsman of CxOTalk. Michael's published content is heavily directed towards the CIO which is why they are so attentive to his output.

The biggest group in the 300 are the 'CIOs and IT Management' category. Led by Chris Curran, Chief Technologist at PwC.

I asked the Managing Directory of Apollo Research, Richard Laven, to explain their methodology for identifying CIO influencers:

  1. We identify CIOs on Twitter through our own research. A small percentage of them self-identify (e.g. "I am CIO @xxxx") on their Twitter description but most of the ones we use for this report come from our own in-house research where they are quoted in technology articles. We then check them on LinkedIn to verify that they are who we think they are.
  2. Any CIO with more than a certain number of friends is removed. The reason we do this is because we want to limit the sample to those that are on Twitter for information/entertainment rather than to self-promote. So for this report we had a sample of 3,158 CIOs.
  3. We then find out who each of the CIOs in the sample follow on Twitter.
  4. We aggregate this information which tells us who is followed the most.
  5. However, there is a lot of inertia on Twitter where users add an account to follow but rarely remove any. According to our data, for every 1 that is removed, 178 are added. So we have built an algorithm that takes this inertia into account. I can't really tell you too much about it because it is our IP and we're reluctant to share it with anyone.

But to illustrate how it works we can take the example of Lance Armstrong. Armstrong still has nearly 4m followers (quite a few CIOs follow him) and in the last 3 months he has lost just over 10,000 followers (0.25%). These 10,000 hardly make a dent in his numbers and do not reflect his dramatic continuing loss of popularity. If we left his following untouched then Armstrong would be top of the CIO sport list in the report and would remain there for the next few years. So the algorithm removes this inertia and only leaves the influencers in place who are active and continue to be popular.

It also means that influencers in the ascendancy show up much more readily. For example, Donald Trump, would not have existed in the politics list 12 months ago, and if we left the numbers untreated then it is likely neither he, nor Hillary Clinton, would appear in the list in the report. But they are currently both in the news and have more exposure than any other US politicians and the algorithm allows us to reflect that.

The other methodology we employ is for the Target Relevancy Index. We wanted a way to show how relevant the influencer's content was to the target audience, in this case the CIOs. We did this by developing a fairly complex algorithm which, fundamentally, measures the proportion of the influencer's overall followers that are CIOs.

Let me know what you think about this approach to measuring influence. Is this list accurate?

And, yes, I am honored to be named top CIO influencer among all technology industry analysts.

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