In my previous blog, I wrote about one vendor's concern that CIOs in Singapore lack technical knowledge, which was echoed by a ZDNet Asia reader.
I decided to ask a few CIOs for their reactions. Far from being defensive, the CIOs offered their side of the story.
Linus Tham, CIO of Singapore's National Healthcare Group, said: "Personally, I do not feel that it is a bad thing for a CIO to lack some knowledge... In my view, a CIO should have enough technical skills and knowledge to ask intelligent questions, and have with him a capable team that he trusts to handle the technical details.
"The remaining 'memory capacity' of the CIO should in fact be focused around understanding his organization's industry and business processes, and looking for ways where IT can add value to the entire business value chain. That way the CIO can truly assess if a technology being touted by a vendor can truly be put to good use in his organization. That is where the CIO adds value," he added.
James Loo, CIO of logistics provider YCH Group, also spoke out against the criticism that due to a lack of technical skills, CIOs could be easily hoodwinked by IT vendors.
"Most of the CTOs/CIOs in my circle came out through the rank and file, and we are therefore technically-inclined and do follow the technology developments and trends quite closely. So it would be difficult to pull wool over our eyes," Loo said in an e-mail. "I worked more than 15 years on the vendor side as well, therefore, it is going to be difficult [for anyone] to try and sell me hype or cut corners in one's delivery."
But this issue also throws up questions about an IT vendor's abilities to understand their customers.
Loo said: "I think the IT vendors are to be blamed too. Are they pitching to the right person? If the CIO says that he/she is not [technically-inclined], maybe they have to ask who else they should be seeing to make their technical pitch, if they must present their technology part.
"Why must they go to the top person and ignore the rest of the IT team who will be the true users of their software, hardware or services? Come to think of it, about 10 to 15 years ago, when CIOs were not as common as IT department managers, I heard the same complaint from IT sales that CEOs and managing directors were not IT-savvy enough."
There is also the distinction between someone who is just a vendor and a vendor who is a partner.
Tham said: "If a vendor is a true partner and not just out to sell more widgets, then the vendor would understand the [customer's] needs and, even if the CIO is less technically proficient, would not try to take advantage of that."
This is so true. Isn't this an opportunity for the vendor to shine by showcasing his knowledge and value-add to his prospects and customers?
There is more to this discussion. Stay tuned for more CIO views and a look back on how CIOs have evolved in my next blog.