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Issue of March 2004 

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Profiling the CEO

Not just zeros and ones

At Pfizer, IT is not just about 0s and 1s but about revenue figures like 10s and 100s, since the CIO's role has to do with 'Business Technology' and not just Information Technology. by Minu Sirsalewala

Hocine Sidi Said is a prototypical CEO. With an MBA from Paris, and after a long stint at Pfizer, USA, he has been the Managing Director of Pfizer Limited, India since January 2001. He strongly believes that IT in Pfizer is actually all about business technology.

"In our kind of business, there is scope to integrate technology right from the point of ideation and conception of research, all the way down to a simple sales process," he explains.

Business leader

He expressed that his role as the business leader is not limited to be focussed on the outcome and deliverables but also on how they achieve it with the best chances on their side.

And in all this the CIO plays an imperative role as he/she is the one responsible to drive the processes and take any business further. He emphasized that the CEO should 'discuss openly and frequently' what's needed in the enterprise and brainstorm with the CIO to gain assurance that the CIO is in tune with the company's strategy.

"The CIO's duty is not just to process the 1s and 0s better, but also to make sure the revenue figures of 10s and 100s are processed better," says Sidi Said.

He expresses that Pfizer has long ago departed from the model, where the business technology person had to be essentially a technologist. "The CIO has to be aware of technology and technology solutions, but greater value and importance is placed on his or her understanding of business at large," says Sidi Said.

People matter

Sidi Said gives high importance to people in his organization and bases his initiatives to enhance the compliance of his people. He opines that this is where a CIO's skills as a communicator come into play.

"Organizations in the past failed to utilize IT to it's best capability because it hired only technology people and not business technology people. The worst thing that can happen in an organization is when a technologist is hired and is led by a managing director who has no interest and no understanding of how technology can influence the business," he explained.

"It all starts with bringing in the right person. If you bring in the right person then you have accomplished or achieved 50 percent of your needs."

CEO's role

At the same time a CEO plays an important role in providing support to the CIO. The CEO should provide a platform for an open discussion with the business peers on the possibilities that IT can create to enable the company to achieve the business strategy.

There needs to be a situation where there is a good interaction between the business leader and the technology business leader. So that the business remains current at all times.

CEO the communicator

As the business leader of an organization it is very important to track the signals you send out to your people. The support demonstrated publicly for business technology or any other department for that matter goes a long way in showing that this company is interested in technology, in change, to be at the forefront of matters.

It is prerogative of the business leader to assess whether he/she requires the intervention of the business technology as a part of his response to an opportunity or a challenge or not.

Minu Sirsalewala can be reached at

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