Posted by: Long Huynh | May 6, 2009

To Tweet or not to Tweet, this is NOT a CIO question

There are recently a host of posts inquiring about whether the CIOs of the world are joining the social media bandwagon or not. One is from NetworkWorld with “12 CIOs who Tweet”. The most recently one is from fellow CIO blogger George Tomko with his post “Why CIO are not using Twitter?” in which George made the following remark:

“Very few CIOs use Twitter. This is not to say that they are against using Twitter. It also does not mean that they are not interested in social networking tools. Three major factors contribute to the slow adoption by CIOs and, ultimately, the companies for whom they manage the deployment of such technology.”

He went on to describe these 3 factors which I would encourage you to come over and read more about, it’s a great post. I posted my comments there:

“As with any good questions, there is no straight answer to “Why CIOs are not using Twitter?”. I would say that its adoption/use by the CIOs depends largely on 3 factors:

1. The persona of the CIO – Some are more techno-inclined, hence more techno-advanced than others in using new tools. There is no evidence to say that one is more capable than another in terms of making an informed decision when the time comes.

2. The level of maturity of IT in the organization – Depending on whether IT is highly effective (optimized in my terminology) or not, issues of security, privacy and productivity may or may not be easy to tackle.

3. The nature and culture of the business organization – Some are more “social” or “media”-centric than others, hence the different rate of adoption. Likewise, the risk averse mentality is more of a corporate one than a particular CIO trait. A risk-averse CIO won’t last long in a high risk-tolerant company.

and would like to expand on it here.

1. To Tweet or not to Tweet, it depends on the Persona of the CIO  – Teeting is a personal, professional and social activity at the same time. Some use Twitter to “follow” newsbreak or celebrities the way many of us following CNN and the like. Others use it to stay connected and exchange tidbits of information among their communities of friends. Others yet use the platform in a creative way for marketing reasons. There shouldn’t be any difference from a CIO user to a non-CIO one. To tweet or not to tweet is more of a personal choice depending on his/her persona.

2. To Tweet or not to Tweet, it depends on the maturity level of the IT organization – As explained in an earlier post (A Darwinian view of a successful IT organization), the challenges facing an IT organization in the early stage of evolution (Optimization) are different from those in the later stage (Growth). While on surface they all need to cut costs and add values, those still working toward an Optimized state (similar to the Level 5 of the Capability Maturity Model – CMM) do not have in place yet a process or mechanism to automatically and effortlessly adjust to technological changes. Social Media in general and Twitter in particular are good examples of those changes. The apparent slow adoption of changes is not because of the unwillingness or risk-averse attitude (of those CIOs) but of the un-preparedness to deal with such ramifications as threats to security, privacy and productivity.

3. To Tweet or not to Tweet, it depends on the nature and culture of the Business – One statement making the round lately is that “CIOs as a lot are more risk averse those days”. Some like Brian Gillooly from InformationWeek [Ref. 1] even called the risk-averse attitude “inherent” and “potentially disastrous for the company”. My take is different: I think that it depends on the Business and we cannot make a blanket statement for all. If some CIOs exhibit a risk-averse approach to social media or any other new technology, it could simply because the CIOs in question are in tune with the Business or with its risk-averse culture. It is then neither inherent nor more disastrous than some CIOs too eager to push through new technologies in the name of innovation while the Business doesn’t warrant one.

By understanding these 3 factors, the smart CIO would listen hard to the stakeholders to understand their perception and expectations in order to address them accordingly, resist the temptation to follow the crowd and stay true to his/her image of a no-nonsense business leader. To tweet or not to tweet, that is a personal choice. To adopt Twitter or other social media corporate-wide is a business decision to be based on demonstrated benefits and values, not on any ideological or personal preference.


[Ref. 1] Global CIO: Have CIOs Become More Risk Averse? by Brian Gillooly, editor-in-chief of events for the InformationWeek Business Technology Network.



  1. Long,

    These points are valid for more than Just CIOs. If people knew why they used twitter rather than getting an account because everyone else is it would be more useful. I followed the commissioner of the NFL during the draft. He had an account because someone told him to would be cool. He did not use it like he could have because he is not into technology like his followers. He did not need one because everything he could say was on TV. If people follow point three there will be fewer useless accounts on twitter.

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