A pyramid scheme from Egypt

DQW Bureau
16 Feb 2006

The Great
Pyramid at Giza is the oldest and last remaining of the seven wonders of the
world. A 20-year project that assembled 2.4 million stone blocks of up to 15
tonnes each, cut and polished to optical precision, and joined so you can't
insert the tip of a knife into any joint-even today.

We walked around this
majestic, six million tonne monster from 4,500 years ago, colleagues and a group
of CIOs. There was awe, some engineering discussion, and some questioning why.
And inevitable cracks about the RoI for megaprojects. But it's a good point.
Who drives such a monster project? How? And why? What's the RoI?

In ancient Egypt, the answers
were clear: backed by the high priests, the King. Driven by a need to prepare
for the afterlife. We saw Rameses II's mummy, we gasped at the golden
treasures of 'King Tut' (who broke his leg and died at 19). All of life was
an investment in the afterlife. The megaprojects would pay back. No one
questioned the RoI when the king drove the project.

In a session later at
C-Change, our annual CIO event, this year in Cairo, I asked those hundred CIOs
if their CEOs were really involved in IT projects (a few hands went up), and in
finance (almost all hands went up).

And the CIOs said: IT is as
strategic as finance. And a big project requires the CEO's 'active
support'. If you need to build a giant pyramid, the CEO must back it.

So when, how, and how much,
do you get the CEO involved?

Not all the time: the CIO
gets paid to do his own job. Nor does he want a CEO always breathing down his
neck (now I wonder if CFOs do). One answer is to find the most difficult part
and seek involvement there. That's rarely the tech. It's people issues:
getting them to use a new application, or to follow a security policy. Or to
compromise and freeze the specs of a project that is dragging on and on.

A major block there can be
the high priests: the CXOs, line managers, SBU heads...they must be with you. So
start from the top of the pyramid. Nothing to beat the 'pyramid effect' of a
CEO driving the point to line managers, visibly using a new app, system or
policy, pulling things out from the new database and questioning them about the

Many CIOs do not invest
enough time in cultivating and 'leveraging' the CEO. And other CXOs. It's
time well spent and invested, for the view from the top of the pyramid is
different. It's a good view to get a glimpse of-and leverage. And it's a
useful view to get used to, for the CIO's career.

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