Companies pay big bucks to have these folks either on board or on retainer. How come?
In my humble opinion, the most important people in any organization are the salespeople. After all, without salespeople, nothing gets sold and the company goes out of business.
On the other end of the scale, are some jobs that, well, aren't really all that useful, even though the people doing them can be pretty highly paid. Here's my list:
1. Chief Information Officer.
In a company where there are lots of legacy systems and complicated plans to integrate them, yes, I can see where a CIO might be useful. However, buying computer power over the web (i.e. "cloud computing") is a huge trend. If done correctly, it reduces the role of corporate computing to essentially maintaining an in-house network and keeping PCs virus-free--hardly something that requires C-level authority.
2. Chief Ethics Officer.
As long as a publicly-held corporation doesn't break the law, run afoul of government regulation, or get clobbered with a scandal, that corporation is legally-bound to maximize profit... even it that means outsourcing to unaudited supply chains that employ slave labor and spew child-killing pollutants. Since "corporate ethics" is an obvious oxymoron, what's the point of paying a C-level exec to be responsible for it?
3. Chief Operations Officer.
Maybe I'm missing something here, but if there's a CEO, why pay a COO? Conversely, if there's a COO, why pay a CEO? Same thing with companies that have both a CEO and a President. Some companies have all three! So who's actually running the company? I say: make up your frigging mind, decide who's the real boss, and get rid of the highly-paid dead weight.
4. Change Catalyst.
These tapeworms of the corporate world latch onto the management fad du jour, and then suck money away setting up dopey meetings, writing unreadable reports, and providing unwanted/unneeded advice. By positioning themselves as "catalysts" they neatly remove themselves from any actual responsibility for results. On the other hand, if something good happens, they can say that they were "catalyzing" the change. Yeah, right.
5. Market Strategist.
A company needs a market strategy, no question. But that doesn't mean it needs a person (much less a team) assigned full time to set that strategy over and over and over. Strategy is a long-term commitment and once it's set, the challenge is to implement that strategy. To justify their existence, though, market strategist must constantly tweak the strategy, thereby making tactical execution difficult or even impossible.
6. Industry Analyst.
These are the folk who work for companies like Gartner, IDC and the hoard of smaller boutique firms. I've met some analysts who are wicked smart, but their opinions are frequently colored by whomever is buying a subscription to their research, and I've seen them "spank" vendors who don't pony up. If you've got the money to spend on "custom research," you can get industry analysts to say pretty much anything you want.
7. High Tech Reporter.
As somebody who's been a high tech reporter (it's what I did before I became a full-time blogger), I can say with some authority that many people who write professionally about high tech business often have very little business experience. Case in point: I once met a Businessweek reporter who thought that "Net Profit" meant profit generated through Internet sales.