How a Great CIO Is Like a Great Quarterback

By Larry Bonfante

The values and differences between public and private cloud approaches and offerings is certainly a timely and important issue and CIO Insight will help readers compare and contrast the pros and cons of both approaches. I however want to take a different slant on the whole cloud conversation.

In many ways the fall is my favorite time of year. Not only do I enjoy the cool crisp weather and changing of seasons here in the Northeast, but I get to enjoy my beloved game of football. You may be asking "What does football have to do with IT?" Well more than you may imagine!

In football the quarterback is responsible for running the offense. He is expected to be able to hand off the ball to the running back, call the plays in the huddle and make all of the basic throws to his receivers. What separates great quarterbacks from the pack is their ability to see the big picture -- to read the defenses and adjust their strategy and play calling to adapt to the changing landscape on the field.

In my mind, the CIO is the quarterback of the IT organization. Hosting data and applications, whether in the public or private cloud, is akin to handing off the ball to the running back. No one on your leadership team or board of directors is going to get excited about how or where you host data and applications. However, your ability to read the business landscape and adapt your strategy to deploy innovative technologies and solutions, and to leverage information to make critical and timely business decisions is what you are being paid to do. It's what you're being measured on.

Granted some teams are able to win Super Bowls with average quarterbacks (Google "Trent Dilfer"). But this is rare. Most teams can’t make it to the top of their field without a great quarterback. (See what happened to the New Orleans Saints when Drew Brees started running their offense.) In the same way, some companies can be successful without a strategic CIO. But truth be told, you can count on one hand the number of teams who’ve won Super Bowls with mediocre quarterbacks. Companies are no different.


About the Author

Larry Bonfante is CIO of the United States Tennis Association and founder of CIO Bench Coach, LLC, an executive coaching practice for IT executives. He is also author of Lessons in IT Transformation, published by John Wiley & Sons. He can be reached at Larry@

This article was originally published on 10-02-2012