When the cat's away

Earlier this month, I found myself suspiciously alone in the office, Not entirely alone - there were other editorial staff around, of course - but alone in the sense that the rest of the ACN team were either on short leave or off covering events in the region.

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By  Imthishan Giado Published  April 19, 2008

Earlier this month, I found myself suspiciously alone in the office, Not entirely alone - there were other editorial staff around, of course - but alone in the sense that the rest of the ACN team were either on short leave or off covering events in the region.

It was an interesting time of the month to be unaided as well - the start of the month is when we begin the news-gathering process, which typically tends to be something of a slow burn. Add to this the fact that both my colleagues were only going to be away for a few days as opposed to a pre-planned long absence such as a vacation, and it made for an unusual situation to be in.

While I had my fair share of regular work to attend to, I also had to sort out a number of administrative duties that my editor would normally handle. These charges - which would be no more than chores to him - proved to be highly illuminating and gave a glimpse, however tiny, of what it means to be in a management position.

The tasks definitely weren't as easy to execute as I had imagined, and required a fair amount of detail planning and re-examination to ensure they were successful. They also took up a fair chunk of the day, leaving me with enough time at the end to do little more than send out e-mails.

How does this parable connect to CIO-employee relations? Well, I suspect many employees in the region often privately harp about how they could do a better job running their department than their immediate boss. With CIOs, who tend to spend their time attending board-room level discussions planning strategy and less time down in the trenches, this sort is mindset is even more likely to develop.

The other common argument from IT staff is that when their bosses are in the office, they seem to be doing little more than answering the phone or replying/sending e-mails - which, staff say, doesn't compare the work they do actually executing the organisations strategic IT goals and implementing complex projects.

If my sliver of editor-for-a-day experience is anything to go by, managers including CIOs certainly don't have it easy - and these small, seemingly-unimportant communications via e-mail or phone are crucial to keeping the IT machine running. Coming up with a plan or design for a project is one thing, but it's a whole different ballgame ensuring that all the various cogs involved click together at precisely at the right time, many of which are out of IT's immediate purview - all while keeping the board and other CxOs appraised as well.

I'd note though, that not all CIOs should be able to hide behind the façade of communication. Being a CIO is certainly about more than being quick with the ‘send' key in Outlook. In this region to ensure that a project runs something at least akin to greased wheels, management has to devote some time to pressing the flesh with vendors and partners - because as we're all well aware, e-mails can be easily ignored.

Since CIOs are only very infrequently out of the office, it seems to me that during these intermittent periods, rather than simply hanging up an out-of-office shingle on the Outlook account, they could deputise a rotating member of the team to handle some of their duties. Apart from the fact that it lightens the CIO's load a little, it would also be a subtle means of discovering which employees have true management potential and are up to increasing their quota of responsibility.

It would also mean that those employees who loudly claim they'd do a better job than the CIO would have to put their money where their mouth is - and based on my brief experience, they're certainly in for a surprise.

Imthishan Giado is the assistant editor of Arabian Computer News.

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