The Wall Street Journal, in collaboration with MIT Sloan, published on Monday an article that pretty much slams chief information officers. 

Why CIOs Are Last Among Equals is by three IT academics and practitioners (see bios below). While CIOs are increasingly important to companies, the authors cite research that executive peers view CIOs as limited. “Based on our research, it’s clear that most CIOs don’t have the broad business understanding, strategic vision and interpersonal skills that it takes to run a company or at least play a bigger role in running one.”

The article then enumerates, in gory detail, “The Skills They Lack”. Citing their own research, the authors explain CIO lack of leadership, strategic thinking, synthesis skills, communications skills, influence skills, and relationship skills. Sound bleak? Don’t worry – the authors say these skills can be learned in class and at work.

So readers, are law firm CIOs in a different class? I personally know many who do not fit this mold the authors describe. Further, my sense is that the strength of law firm CIOs has gone up considerably in the last decade, both through ‘organic growth’ (that is, job experience) and ‘acquisition’ (that is, hiring from outside the legal market).

Having defended the camp, I now feel entitled to share that I do think in some firms the Chief Knowledge Office (CKO) has an explicit or implicit part-time job to make up for the skill gaps the authors enumerate.

Comments welcome, as always. (Speaking of comments, there are three very good ones attached to my prior post on project management.)

End Note – Authors of Article: Mr. DeLisi is the academic dean of the Information Technology Leadership Program at Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, Calif. Dr. Moberg is the Wilkinson professor of management and ethics at Santa Clara University. Dr. Danielson is the vice provost for information services and chief information officer at Santa Clara.