What If The Great Karnak Were a CIO?

What If The Great Karnak Were a CIO?


One of my favorite people to work with is Mike Hecker, Associate CIO of Architecture, Futurist, and Humorist at NASA.  He joked about the NASA CIO, Jonathan Pettus and the Johnny Carson character “The Great Karnak”.  So, I thought … hum, what if CIOs could predict the answer to the question before it was asked? What if they could shape or manage demand for IT services?


That sounds like the “demand-side” of the CIO versus the “supply-side” of the CIO.  As a CIO, one of the “bad places” to be is solely on the supply-side.  What’s up with this new jargon supply-side and demand-side?  In English, supply-side is the CIO as a service provider and manager of IT services – with apologies to Janet Jackson, “What have you done for me lately?” demand-side is the CIO as a leader and strategist – “What IT investments do we need to deliver mission outcomes competitively?” This is a bar room discussion that we have had often at the Goddard Space Flight Center, regrettably, without benefit of a Cosmopolitan. 


CIO.COM discusses a relevant anecdote in “Federal IT Flunks Out”, May 15, 2006.  At the retirement ceremony of Dan Matthews, former CIO of Department of Transportation and current Lockheed Martin executive, a top-level executive mentioned how Dan always helped out with fixing Blackberry problems (the supply-side of the CIO).  Dan responds:


“Agency executives know that CIOs provide a vital resource to organizations—they just don’t know what it is.”


I suppose he knew the key to being a successful CIO was to also add noteworthy value through the demand-side – i.e., capturing and prioritizing requirements, assigning resources based on business and mission objectives and doing projects that deliver business and mission benefits.


In the IT Transformation that is going on at Goddard, some have suggested that there is an inherent conflict of interest between the supply-side role of a CIO and the demand-side.  Consider this thought by Ellen Kitzis, “CIOs must lead by setting expectations on the demand side and leading their IT team to deliver on that promise on the supply side.” The right balance of both the demand-side and the supply-side will optimize the mission value of IT in an organization.


So if The Great Karnak was a CIO, he would say “C-I, C-I, O”.  The question would be, “Who does Old MacDonald turns to for advice about how to get more value from his farm using information technology”.   Yep, maybe we should be like Karnak.

Linda Y. Cureton

3 thoughts on “What If The Great Karnak Were a CIO?”

  1. What a kick…….It is definitely good for a Leader to have a sense of humor……….It is vitally important for a Leader not to ask a Follower to do anything that the Leader is not willing to do themselves……….encouragement goes alot farther than criticism..

    Supply Side: Praise and Recognition.

    Demand Side: Arbitrary and Fruitless.

    Karnak:”What makes a good Leader?”

    Your Pal, (RT)

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