A few months ago, Jay Ferro and I (Chief Information Officer at American Cancer Society) did a webinar with Frost and Sullivan.

We touched on communication skills, culture, getting innovation right, getting people right, and learning the commercial and value oriented lingo.

Something profound about communicating value as a CIO dawned on me after I subconsciously somewhat bold made the following statement:

I have yet to have pitched an idea or supported a project where if I did a good enough job and everyone understands it, it still didn’t get funded.

The bottom line is it’s not that we don’t have enough funding in the organization; it’s that we’re not articulating the value of the technology projects enough.

After I realize what I said on a recorded webinar and how it might have sounded sounded, I started to think through the “how” to make sure I can stand behind such a bold statement. I can. What was the secret sauce to pitching (and getting funded) large transformation IT projects?

I arrived at one conclusion, I DRAW EVERYTHING. I am notorious for pitching multimillion-dollar projects with a simple single image, and with a high percentage getting them funded.

And so I really started to dig into it, what are the three things that I can suggest to CIOs, to help them really embrace the notion of drawing. Here it goes.


The video below is one of my favorite YouTube videos; it mixes sound, writing, images and visual. Cartoons are easy to draw, and your audience is willing to engage because they assume that it is not “baked” as yet, this allows them to own the shaping and framing of your proposal garnering the much needed "ownership capital" technology investment governance committees often need. The reality is, photos, or PowerPoint shapes (no matter how good you are) can never precisely tell a story the way a cartoon can.


I can’t tell you how many times I review presentations where the colors are the sharp reds and greens from the stock Microsoft Office palette. Many times the content is brilliant, and the visuals are digestible, but the mere use of “rookie” colors, you send a certain “rookie” tone for the content.

The image below is an illustration I did to show what I mean.


It is one thing to use pastel colors, it’s another thing to use colors carefully.

I learned this after realizing approximately 1 in every 12 male is colorblind (the numbers are different for females). Colors can be a double-edged sword, you want to use tones to differentiate not for impact, but colors to impact. I made the example below.

So going back to the conversation I had with Jay, and Frost and Sullivan; If one of the more important things for CIOs in Life Sciences to do is communicate the value of a technology transformation and visuals are such a big part of said communication; should a CIO be taking some art/design lessons on the side?

Is there such a thing as visual literacy training for CIOs?

As usual, thank you for sharing, and do not hesitate to join the conversation. Be critical!

  1. What are some of your tricks?
  2. What are some of your best practices?