Mis Engaging in Cio-Cxo “Conversations That Matter”: an Interview with Peter Keen

Table of Content

Management information systems (MIS) are currently vital for enhancing organizational management by streamlining company operations and procedures. To maximize the effectiveness of these systems and their integration with overall company functioning, strong coordination within the MIS department is crucial. In his article titled “Engaging in CIO-CxO Conversations that Matter,” Omar El Sawy interviews Peter Keen, Chairman of Keen Innovations.

He was asked about the issues and barriers to performance in the domain of MIS and potential solutions. This paper will react to Peter Keen’s answers and build an opinion supported by references. Q1: Can you explain what you mean by CxOs not being interested in “IT”? Peter Keen, the chairman and advisor of Keen Innovations, provided a clear answer.

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According to the author, it is crucial for CxOs to recognize the significance of information systems in their company and how they influence relationships between various processes. The author adds that although chief executive officers may appear to dislike technology and information systems, they simply avoid delving into the intricacies and technical aspects of these technologies.

The main concern is the tangible benefits that these technologies provide to the business and how they enhance the company’s performance. Peter Keen uses Facebook as an example, noting that 300 million users utilize its platform without fully understanding its inner workings. According to Keen, the role of CIOs is as significant as any other CxO, if not more so.

CIOs have an in-depth understanding of a company’s internal workings, allowing them to effectively and efficiently solve problems using information technology. I strongly believe that CIOs should be officially included in decision-making committees, as their strategies can greatly benefit the company. According to Alter (2006), there is potential for the CIO to become the Chief Operations Officer, transforming their role from operational maintenance to ensuring smooth business operations. In my opinion, collaboration and cooperation between CxOs and CIOs are crucial within an organization. By aligning their efforts, they can effectively address internal challenges and ultimately increase profitability. Reflecting on the past 30 years, it is apparent that the role of the CIO has evolved from focusing solely on operations to incorporating a greater emphasis on business strategy. This suggests that the future will bring further evolution to the role of the CIO.

During a conversation, El Sawy inquired about the evolution of CIOs’ role over the last three decades and its implications for future IT leaders. Peter Keen responded by highlighting the broader changes observed within this department. Previously, companies would invest in IT without fully integrating it into their organizational goals. However, presently, the technical aspects of the IT department are outsourced, making the role of CIO crucial for a company’s operations.

The CIO, as stated by Alter (2006), has several responsibilities including insourcing and outsourcing. These tasks provide the organization with a competitive advantage and help drive business changes to stay ahead of competitors. The CIO is accountable for identifying necessary business changes, enhancing performance, and driving end-to-end business process transformation. However, I believe that CIOs should have additional strategic responsibilities beyond their current assignments due to the complex nature of their role.

The Chief Information Officer (CIO) role requires specific skills that not all CxOs possess, according to Peter Keen. The importance of the CIO role will continue to grow in the future. In the past, having two out of three key capabilities – personal leadership, technology leadership, and business acumen – was sufficient for CIOs. However, tomorrow’s CIO will need all three capabilities. A comparison is made between today’s and tomorrow’s CIOs to better understand the transition of the role. The diagram below illustrates these transitions (source: The evolving role of CIO, IBM, 2008).

In summary, the “new” CIO should shift their focus from Information (the “I” in CIO) to other areas such as innovation, infrastructure, integration or intelligence. During a discussion at ICIS 2009, Peter Keen emphasized the importance of “conversations that matter.” He highlighted how innovation by CIOs can benefit organizations and also discussed the relevance of appropriate communication between CIOs (Keen, ICIS 2009).

In Peter Keen’s view, effective conversations should involve discussions that are valuable enough to be shared, questioned, and debated. He believes that interactions between CxOs, CIOs, IT professionals, and educators should consist of the kind of discussions that CxOs attend and are never canceled because they are considered a personal and leadership priority. These intersections often involve making irreversible business decisions, such as entering foreign markets, and other significant topics.

CIOs are often involved in conversations to introduce innovation and address operational costs. In recent years, there has been progress in shifting IT towards business awareness as CxOs have come to realize the value of technology coordination for their company. They admit that they were lacking imagination in the past. In my opinion, companies have been neglecting or misusing investments that are insignificant compared to the impact IT has had in the business field.

Q4: Why are discussions in CxO circles focused on innovation rather than invention? After looking up the definitions of both terms, I discovered the distinction: “invention” involves creating a completely new product or introducing a process for the first time, while “innovation” occurs when someone improves upon or adds something interesting to an existing product, service, or process. Dr. Peter Keen explains that innovation is more efficient and captivating than invention because it revolves around creating value.

Peter emphasizes the importance of CxOs being among the few individuals within a company who can discuss innovation. He believes that neither invention nor innovation should be underestimated or overestimated. According to Jeff Immelt, Chairman and CEO of General Electric, open innovation is crucial for companies to excel in technology. An example is provided with RFID, illustrating the challenges in transitioning from invention to business value. Successful companies actively cultivate new ideas, implement them efficiently, and reap the benefits of successful innovations. The focus of discussions around innovation often revolves around a company’s products and services. However, in “Managing Information Technology Innovation for Business Value” by Esther Baldwin and Martin Curley, the authors explain how IT innovations can contribute significantly to a company’s return on investment. Ultimately, Peter suggests that investing in innovative IT solutions can greatly enhance a company’s value.Furthermore, the success of a firm’s IT investment is greatly dependent on practicing innovation. I personally believe that innovation can be described as the process of bringing a conceptualized invention into the market. An invention is an abstract idea that has the potential to enhance human capabilities in a positive manner. Once the invention is integrated into the economy, it transforms into an innovation.

Q5: Dr Peter Keen provided an example of how IT can drive cost-cutting measures in organizations using Amazon as a case study. He emphasized the importance of fostering collaboration between the CIO and CFO through discussions and conversations, as this leads to financial gains. By exchanging knowledge and insights, these executives can generate innovative ideas and make strategic decisions that improve the company’s bottom line. Additionally, Dr Keen highlighted the role of pioneering companies such as Google, Amazon, Apple, and Wal-Mart in inspiring and guiding other organizations towards making informed choices.

One well-known example is the Wal-Mart case, where the CIOs and CxOs discuss and exchange ideas primarily on implementing new strategies to reduce costs. Wal-Mart’s strategy for cost reduction involves eliminating warehouses. If the company runs out of stock, the IT department can check their suppliers’ warehouses online to see if the product is available, then conveniently place an order through this system.

In fact, Wal-Mart used this strategy to reduce warehouse ownership costs by eliminating electricity, employees, and phone call expenses. Q6: For example, let’s consider the currently popular topic of cloud computing. Peter Keen argued that we can turn this into a conversation for innovation by discussing how cloud computing can alter the enterprise’s variable cost structure and enhance flexibility and responsiveness for the IT organization. This perspective views cloud computing as an opportunity for innovative conversations.

In addition, he emphasizes the importance of changing the customer experience and believes that IT can assist in achieving this goal. However, he deems it pointless when CxOs discuss virtualization or open cloud standards. Cloud computing has presented an appealing opportunity to small businesses and large enterprise alike. In the past, information systems were primarily operated on physical machines within the organization. The advent of cloud computing has enabled the development of information systems on virtual machines provided by cloud service providers.

According to Chou (2007), cloud computing offers cost-saving opportunities for companies whose core business is not IT, as it allows them to reduce the development costs of information systems that support their main business operations. In the next decade, IT professionals’ distinctive competence, as identified by Peter Keen, lies in their ability to analyze both business processes and multi-functional aspects simultaneously.

In the innovation conversation, CIOs play a crucial role by integrating and connecting various elements. The article highlights an important example where employees in different departments lack knowledge about each other’s work, while IT employees possess a good understanding of the organization’s overall process. Additionally, IT professionals stand out due to their expertise in data assurance, data integrity, and version control.

Additionally, it is vital for Keen to recognize and not underestimate the challenges of implementing innovative new technologies. These IT coordination skills must exist not only within the business itself, but also within the IT organization or a third-party provider. In order to achieve successful outcomes in today’s world, effective coordination skills are crucial, which often involve the participation of various loosely connected resources. These skills include coordination, analysis, and innovation (Reichental, 2011). Furthermore, what does all of this mean for IS academics as researchers and teachers? Keen briefly discusses the importance of revitalizing executive education to develop a new generation of IT leaders. Therefore, this new generation of future CIOs and CxOs continues to grow and learn from the innovation of current CIOs and CxOs. However, in their role as educators, IS academics need to expand their involvement in different contexts such as social and political changes, which require the delivery of general IS/IT skills through various forms of education (Gough, 2000).

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Mis Engaging in Cio-Cxo “Conversations That Matter”: an Interview with Peter Keen. (2016, Oct 29). Retrieved from


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