Do CIOs Belong in Testing Trenches?

Ann All

Most discussions of the CIO role focus on the need for CIOs to become more involved in broader business strategy, delegating the nitty-gritty technical details to others within their organizations.


Of course, a CIO too far removed from the tech trenches risks losing the respect of his or her staff, being taken advantage of by vendors who hope to capitalize on his or her cluelessness and just generally feeling overwhelmed. Finding a middle ground, a CIO comfortable with both business and technical perspectives, seems to be the holy grail.


In all of these discussions, however, the one point upon which everyone seems to agree is how darned busy the CIO is. So is it realistic to expect the CIO to make room for a task as mundane as testing in his or her schedule?


Yes it is, writes Chuck Musciano on The Effective CIO blog. Musciano, the CIO of Martin Marietta Materials, sees testing as part of his larger responsbility to understand how his company's systems function and what the user experience will be like. To that end, he tries out almost everything deployed in his company, from laptops to phones.


In fact, he points out, the CIO's distance from a tool or system allows him or her to offer a different perspective from the developers working with it on a daily basis, who in their quest to iron out all the smallest details may lose sight of the overall user experience. (This tendency to hammer out technical problems with the other geeks instead of dicussing it with others is a common trait of techies.) Writes Musciano:


CIOs should be operating at a strategic level above the details. That altitude, however, does not absolve of us from having the ultimate responsibility for the quality of everything we deliver to the business. Ironically, our distance from a tool or system gives us a different perspective from the developers who toil so closely with it. By being closer to the forest than the trees, we can often see problems that are overlooked by the tactical developers and testers.

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