This is part 3 of a 4-part series on advice for new CIOs
CIO-to-CIO advice: Overcoming challenges
As a new CIO, it is critical that you understand the culture of the IT organization and how to effectively influence change. In order to overcome difficulties and carry out long-term strategies, you must establish your own credibility and provide IT leadership that impacts real, positive change in the organization.
The best leaders don’t change the entire organization before they truly understand it.
Be patient. Take time to observe first hand how the business operates.
Gain a point of reference by which to discuss problems and strategies in a relevant way and implement more effective solutions.
Outdated and misaligned IT strategies can cause inefficiency and unhappiness in the organization.
Look for deficiencies in security, vendor management, and business alignment.
Regularly assess the progress and success of projects to revise strategies and set a better course for the organization.
Improve service performance
Delivering secure, effective services is at the core of IT’s mission, but many CIOs face underperforming infrastructure and suppliers.
Review the service -delivery model and assess supplier constraints.
Initiate a routine process of developing service-improvement plans tied to personal objectives and SLAs.
Maintaining the day-to-day operations of the business while meeting increasing demands for new applications and services can be difficult.
Use what you have learned from talking to people within the company to better understand the business’s needs.
Create an executive governance committee composed of IT and business leadership to mutually prioritize these demands and ensure that efforts are being best allocated to meet the needs created by shifts in business and peak periods.
Fill talent deficiencies
In your first months as CIO, you will find areas where your organization lacks the necessary skills or leadership to maximize productivity, creativity, and efficiency.
Establish key consultancy partnerships for guidance and to help fill temporary gaps in the resource plan while seeking long-term talent.
The goal of the CIO has not changed – deliver value, drive business results, be an inspirational leader of people, and ensure technology innovation aligned to the broader business strategic direction is maintained. The tools however have changed. A decreasing role of traditional ERP, emergence of massive digital disruption, coupled with an ever demanding mobile customer base with an insatiable demand for immediate information gratification, within a social and collaborative workplace.
Challenges persist unabated for the CIO:
Security and Compliance incorporating, applications, infrastructure and data persist due to evolving regulatory complications, and an increasing internal and external threat environment. This massive increase in data volume is necessitating a rethink in the document retention, deletion and management areas
Governance – really managing demand and capacity to ensure aligned delivery of the most value adding technology solutions in resource and budget constrained times
New technology emergence is driving business process challenges within the business organizations that the CIO is either expected to be driving directly or aligning to
Everything as a service and all that that means
IoT, the what, how and where are the most effective uses of these technologies to ensure maximum penetration and benefit
An evolving talent market, with different styles, characteristics, work habits and perspectives on what the work environment should deliver and provide
Continued M&A activity requiring nimbleness and flexibility of technology architecture to accommodate a changing landscape of business requirements and demands
All of these are daunting for experienced CIO’s. In a role where a honeymoon period lasts probably as long as it takes for you to walk from the parking garage into the office, new CIO’s have to quickly assimilate into their environment and are expected to deliver almost from day one. Learn or know the business already, opine about everything that has a power button, the empathy and EQ of a psychiatrist, business savvy of Warren Buffett, and the insight into what needs to happen and change so that you can brief your Executive peers during your first meeting.
Not surprising then that the failure rate for new CIOs consistently ranges between 40% to 50%. New executives in this demanding space can however learn from the past mistakes of other IT leaders to improve their chances of success.
In order for any new leader, and especially a CIO, to quickly establish credibility which leads to trust they must think about focusing on some core elements during their first few months in the role.
How to be wildly successful:
Firstly, listen, listen, and listen some more. Preconceived notions or early assumptions of what is, has been, and should be, need to be based on fact, not assumption, prior experience, or single thread conversations.
Understand risk and threats especially within the technology function but also more broadly across the enterprise and IT’s role in it.
Assess your team. Remember, you have been hired to lead a core, strategic function for the enterprise. Leadership is about respect and trust. Your team will be a reflection on you, your organization, and your success. Make sure you have the best you can get around you. Leadership is not a popularity contest so if you need to make changes do so quickly, empathetically, aligned with HR, and ensure visible support to those leaving is provided. It is never personal.
Understand what the function is doing well, can be improved upon, but more critically what role should the IT function be playing within the broader enterprise. If this fact does not align with your understanding of the role, or why you were hired, then raise the flag quickly, professionally and ensure that the clarity is what you need to be confident in the support of your peers and the organization as a whole.
Assimilate the information, ask questions. If you don’t ask, people will assume that you know and base their impression, assertions on that. Do not be afraid to ask for clarification, or what something means. Acronym hell does exist! Ask someone to build you a list of all the company’s acronyms and take it with you. It will make being engaged in conversations easier when you understand the language of the company.
Look for quick and easy things to fix, and keep doing it. There will be a lot! Never underestimate the importance of this! It shows that you understand, can get things done quickly and aren’t going to mess around with the trivial.
Finally accept that your role is a business leader first and foremost and a technology leader second. Act like one!
Advice For the New CIO – Part 1 of a 4-Part Series
Leveraging IT to drive business strategies
The new CIO works in a disrupted, digital world and must leverage new, rapidly changing ways of delivering IT services to drive business goals. These services have to be focused on driving the business strategies, while optimizing delivery quality and cost. The disruption factor can be immense if “going digital” will not accelerate business growth, enhance a competitive market position, or create differentiation. By leveraging resources, relationships, and innovative technology, new CIOs can overcome the challenges of the office and form the foundation for a successful tenure.
New executive leader failure rate consistently ranges from 40 to 50%. The dual challenges for new CIOs are justifying your new role and justifying the business value of IT. Running IT is a business, and IT should be run as a business. New CIO’s have to embrace this concept and understand the skills and requirements needed to be successful.
What’s covered in this multi-part series?
This series of blog posts is designed to help current and future CIOs understand their place in the business world today and learn new strategies to handle issues related to security, correcting business and IT alignment issues, governance, XaaS, and strategic initiatives. It will help new CIOs achieve success in their first 90 days and lead IT transformation to help build the foundation of a winning organization.
Part 1: First 90 days – We’ll give a step-by-step breakdown of what new CIOs need to know for their first 90 days and beyond.
Part 2: Early wins – Securing early wins is critical to building relationships and securing your role in the organization. We’ll offer some suggestions for key targets in the first days on the job.
Part 3: Challenges – The first months of a CIO’s tenure are often the most challenging. We’ll cover some of the most common issues and strategies for dealing with them.
Part 4: Five key tips for the new CIO – CIO-to-CIO advice, curated from the experience of over a dozen former CIOs
The first 90 days
The first 90 days on the job for a new CIO set the precedent for your tenure. You must gain a clear understanding of the state of the company and IT, meet and build relationships with the team, and develop strategies to leverage resources to drive business and deliver more efficient and secure IT service.
This timeline will provide you with an overview of best practices for this critical early stage.
The first days on any high level executive job will inevitably be filled with countless meetings, strategic consultations, and other measures to help orient the new executive. By taking advantage of this early period, and using it to build stronger relationships with the team and craft your directive for the future of IT in the company, you can help ensure the success of your tenure.
What are the top security concerns in the IT organization?
What are employee thoughts about company policies, such as BYOD?
What are the current structures of governance in IT? Are they thought to be effective? Whose needs do they not address? What are different players’ optimal spending priorities?
What has been outsourced to XaaS? What would be further outsourced?
What is the state of office relationships? Who is well liked? Who is respected? Who are the underperformers?
Where is IT misaligned with overarching business goals?
Communicate early and often.
Start by talking with peers and IT staff to understand the landscape and begin building connections.
Meet and hash out early priorities with the board, CEO, COO, CFO, and other business leaders.
Ask questions. Talk to employees, colleagues, and business leaders to learn how the business is functioning, what needs to be done, and where the business is headed.
Listen. The first month should be primarily focused on learning about the company and its people.
Share your goals and communicate who you are.
Communicate priorities in a 30-day outreach plan.
2. Evaluate talent
Find out who is underperforming.
Find out who has high potential and why.
Create a strategy to nurture talent and replace underperforming individuals.
3. Build relationships
Identify immediate concerns and challenges for business partners.
Find quick fixes that can help form the foundation for mutually beneficial relationships.
Talk to business leaders to gain a better understanding of the business’s strategic direction.
Determine which department carries the most weight in the organization. This will help you understand the company’s culture and where to focus your efforts.
Identify those who will help you advance your priorities (and those who will get in your way).
4. Assess and make goals
Conduct a full IT assessment and use it to develop a comprehensive strategy.
Evaluate security in IT. What are the weak points?
How is the organization using cloud technology?
Identify areas where XaaS could provide benefits.
Is IT aligned with business strategies?
Establish clear KPIs for yourself and your team aligned with your priorities.
After you are oriented and have a solid footing as CIO, it’s time to start expanding on the foundation you have laid and implement plans of a greater scope.
Keep channels of communication open.
Continually reiterate your goals and strategies to business leaders and employees.
Look for outside perspectives to gain greater insight into the company’s state and future.
Prioritize critical or at-risk areas for assessment.
Rapidly engage sourcing to meet gaps.
Set up VMO to help manage vendors and fill out the needs of the organization.
Conduct high-level assessments across all areas. Which areas are assessed will depend on organization type, health, and perceived maturity level.
3. Act on talent evaluations
Identify talent acquisitions that need to be made and positions that need to be eliminated.
Get the support of employees and leaders first.
Take steps to begin restructuring the organization.
Act quickly, respectfully, and decisively while restructuring.
Promote the changes as a positive for the company and recognize the contributions of effective employees.
Continue to fix simple problems quickly and maintain your role as an effective leader.
After day 90
As you continue the work started in the first 90 days, it is critical that you keep paying attention to how the business is changing and what impact your actions are having. Don’t be afraid to pivot or readjust your plans to better fit the business needs of the organization.
Maintain and nurture the relationships you have built.
Continue to ask questions and learn about new opportunities.
Look for problems or concerns that need to be addressed.
Keep assessing your progress toward goals and the effectiveness of your initiatives.
Socialize your finding and solicit support from business partners.
Evaluate supplier performance and identify those that are providing your organization the greatest value.
Evaluate how your plan fits in with your risk-mitigation strategies and its impact against the existing workload.
Don’t be afraid to reevaluate goals and plans.
3. Develop long-term goals
Develop a remediation strategy and investment plan.
Formulate a strategic link between internal technology and business strategy.
Facilitate key business drivers of success.
Compare all activities to predefined metrics to judge success and reevaluate as necessary.