Laughing at the CIO: A Parable and Prescription for IT Leadership

Wouter Schallier (Campus Librarian Biomedical Sciences, K.U. Leuven University, Belgium)

Program: electronic library and information systems

ISSN: 0033-0337

Article publication date: 25 April 2008




Schallier, W. (2008), "Laughing at the CIO: A Parable and Prescription for IT Leadership", Program: electronic library and information systems, Vol. 42 No. 2, pp. 200-201.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

“This book helps information leaders lead” (p. xvi). The introduction, the title and the author of this book, Bob Boiko, who also wrote Content Management Bible, raise great expectations. Probably everybody will agree that information is a strategic asset for an organisation, but seldom do organisations succeed in forming a successful information strategy. So there is still much work to do about information management and we are very curious about this book that promises “to give you a set of tools you can use to lead information management” (p. xvii). By information management we mean the ability to “collect, manage, and distribute information in this wired world” (p. xxii).

As is referred to in the title, the book starts with a parable, which is about 40 pages long. It tells the fictional story of a person named Les Knowles, being the new Chief Information Officer (CIO) of an organisation. Many readers who are, in reality, involved in information management projects, be it from a financial, marketing, IT or other point of view, will certainly recognise situations and persons in this parable. This makes it didactic by itself. Important principles are illustrated in a very concrete way: information management is more a matter of information than of technology, when we say information, we say people, “people who need information and people who have information” (p. 37) etc. Since in reality these principles are often violated, it is never bad to repeat them.

The prescription can be found in the rest of the book. Its aim is to give explicit and structured rules for good information management. It answers questions like: what is information and why does it matter, how do you own information, how do you create an enterprise strategy, how do you move management forward, … and, finally, how do you lead information projects. The structure of the book does help people to start thinking in a serious and systematic way about their organisation's information policy.

The author obviously speaks from a wide experience. Unfortunately, he does this without many concrete examples or even the smallest justification. Like a Delphic oracle the author gives recommendations about the do's and the don'ts and the reader can only trust his authority and experience. By consequence, the whole discussion remains quite abstract and becomes sometimes even slightly pedantic. The contrast with the vivid and softly didactic parable could not have been greater.

The buyer of the print edition of this book has free access to the electronic version ( This e‐book mostly coincides with the content of the print version. Extra features, like “creating your goals taxonomy” (p. 79), “forming strategy statements” (p. 96), can only be used after buying access to the e‐book Leading Information Strategy (US$5) by the same author. The reader is also referred to another e‐book, namely Leading Information Departments, but unfortunately this could not be accessed when writing this review (6 December 2007), since it was not available for purchase yet. The fact that the reader is referred many times to other publications for which he has to pay an extra (small) amount of money is not a big deal, but it is quite frustrating that these references systematically come up when the discussion starts getting concrete.

This book is written for executives, managers and many others interested in information management. It will ask some effort from people to read this insufficiently concrete and sometimes long‐winded book.

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