I had an excellent conversation earlier this week with Mark Egan, a partner at StrataFusion Group. Headquartered in Silicon Valley, Mark's firm is a leading provider of executive-level technology management services including CIO/CTO advisory, information security, big data/cloud analytics and IT transformation.

Prior to joining StrataFusion, Mark was a CIO at VMware, where he led the company from a server virtualization vendor with $2 billion in revenue to a $5 billion market leader of cloud solutions. During his 6 years as CIO at Symantec, Mark's leadership in IT was instrumental in supporting the company's transformation from $600 million consumer software publisher to a $5 billion market leader of enterprise security solutions. He held senior level positions with companies in a variety of industries, including Sun Microsystems, Price Waterhouse, and Wells Fargo Bank.

I asked Mark to describe the perspective from Silicon Valley on the major challenges facing the present-day CIO. His responses were direct and spot on. "I think CIOs should really be focused on two things: The first is helping their companies develop high quality products and services much faster. The second is helping to sell those products and services. At the end of the day, those are the two things every CIO should be focused on," says Mark.

Mark advises CIOs not to get "dragged down into a bunch of other stuff that frankly doesn't matter." Great CIOs, he says, focus on helping the business create high-quality products that will generate revenue for the enterprise. "I think some CIOs get all wound up on control and governance, etc. They end up alienating their business partners," he says. "Or they get distracted by the technology. Then the lines of business just go off and do their own thing because they're very frustrated."

Mark recommends that CIOs should think like CEOs, and focus on achieving business success in competitive markets. "If you focus on what's really important to the business, you will succeed," Mark says.

On the other hand, if you focus too much on the technology itself, you are likely to find yourself lost in the weeds - and that's definitely not a place where a strong CIO should be. In effect, Mark says, some CIOs wind up unintentionally demoting themselves to "VP of IT," which is inarguably a step backward.

I agree wholeheartedly with Mark, and I appreciate him taking the time to share his perspective from The Valley. We'll be hearing more from Mark in future editions of the newsletter and blog, and I look forward to sharing his insight with our CIO community.