Author: Yogi Schulz

CIO’s have lived through the disasters of poor or non-existent project management. They’ve also experienced the value of sound project management. Most CEO’s have not experienced such triumphs or disasters first-hand.

The challenge for the CIO is to sell the skeptical CEO on the value of project management. To many CEO’s project management is either a technique the organization already executes well or a gold-plated control mechanism. Here are some successful selling approaches suited to the attitude the CEO exhibits toward IT.


The hypocrite CEO talks about the importance of IT but never makes any time for pursuing this importance.

The CIO’s best, but slightly hypocritical, sales angle is to agree that the CEO shouldn’t have to spare the time (not true) and say that the project manager’s job is to ensure that each IT project receives the attention it deserves.


The waverer CEO reluctantly accepts the importance of IT but delegates responsibility for IT to another executive.

The best course is for the CIO to addresses the CEO’s reluctance by reminding him that project managers ensure that IT issues don’t bounce back onto the CEO desk for attention.


The atheist CEO doesn’t believe in the value of IT and publicly complains about high IT costs and ridicules IT performance.

The thick-skinned CIO will diplomatically point out that previous cost overruns occurred due to insufficient executive attention and an absence of project management. If the organization is truly concerned about improving performance and controlling costs, then introducing project management disciplines will improve IT delivery.

If the CEO fails to respond to these suggestions, most CIO’s will quickly tire of the unwarranted public abuse and pursue other opportunities. The CEO may wonder why the organization is experiencing such high turnover in the CIO position.


The zealot CEO is convinced of the importance of IT and believes he or she is an authority on IT practice.

While the CIO will have no difficulty selling IT project management, the problem will be the constant meddling of the know-it-all CEO in the details of the project. The best approach will be to ensure that steering committee meetings are kept very high level; leaving little for the CEO to pick at.


The agnostic CEO concedes the importance of IT but requires repeated convincing with an unambiguous business case.

The successful CIO will exhibit extreme patience. He or she will expect to restate the benefit case for project management repeatedly. The benefits include the value of leadership, scope defense and risk control.


The monarch CEO accepts the importance of IT but delegates IT to the CIO and then absolves him or herself of further involvement.

In this situation, the CIO is completely free to appoint capable project management to ensure successful IT delivery.


The believer CEO accepts the importance of IT and openly supports executives pursuing its application.

With a believer CEO, the CIO will build a trusting relationship. The value of project management is readily accepted as a component of a healthy IT delivery culture.


The challenge for the CIO, in selling project management, is first understand the attitude the CEO exhibits toward IT, however dysfunctional that may be. Only then can the CIO make a successful pitch for project management.

If you’d like to receive the references I used to create this column, please send me an e-mail.


1.      “How to be a CEO for the Information Age”, Michael Earl & David Feeny, MIT Sloan Management Review, Winter 2000 Volume 41 Number 2 page 11, Reprint 4121.

2.      “Selling Project Management to Senior Executives: The Case for Avoiding Crisis Sales”, Janice Thomas, Connie L. Delisle, Kam Jugdev & Pamela Buckle, Project Management Journal, June 2002 Volume 33 Number 2 page 19.