Edward Martin, deputy CIO of George Washington University is this month’s Premier 100 IT Leader.
He answers questions about pay equity, indispensable skills and how to become a CIO.
Q – My company has fallen well behind the average compensation in our area for several IT positions. I’ve lost many people in my group, and it seems to be accelerating. But when I’ve talked to management about bringing our pay in line with local industry, I’ve been told that we just don’t have the budget for increases.
How can I argue my point more persuasively?
A- Many IT leaders face this challenge. The answer depends upon the IT area with which you are struggling to maintain equity to market. For areas that are becoming more commoditized, such as data networking, data centre, help desk, imaging and deskside support, present alternatives to management that may need to include outsourcing or external help.
Frame options with an attention to service levels and impact. For areas that are more specific to your business and processes, such as business analysis, project management, systems design, process management, or contract management, you should frame requests in terms management will understand.
Propose a plan to bring the area into equity to market. Managers generally embrace plans that either emphasize shareholder value or minimize risk. Most importantly, base your proposal or recommendation on facts, not emotions or opinions. Your HR department can be your partner in providing market equity data, so consider enlisting them.
Q- If you were required to cut your staff by 20 per cent, which skills or traits would you most want to hold on to?
A- I would want to hold on to skills and traits that are aligned with a deep understanding of the business and that position the staff and teams to do more with less overall. For skills, I would want to focus on retaining business analysts, systems designers, project managers and process managers.
For traits, I would focus on retaining multi-skilled personnel who demonstrate strong critical thinking and good innovation skills. For traits in management and leadership, I would want to retain those who are not only accountable and able to exhibit good managerial courage, but who also are selfless and quite obvious about being selfless through their actions and words.
An often undervalued attribute whose need increases dramatically in a downsized IT organization is having a range of communications. Personnel who can comprehend and explain technical concepts but can also translate business terms for and from senior management are invaluable.
I’m a vice president of information services who has always prided myself on my willingness, and my ability, to get into the trenches with my team. I’m up to date on technology. I’ve always thought this was a great quality in a leader, so I was shocked when I was informed that I wouldn’t be our next CIO precisely because I needed to improve my leadership skills. I’ve had to rethink my approach, but I would like a second opinion about my current approach.
First, place an emphasis on developing your managers to fill the role you currently fill. Delegate and hold them accountable for plans, objectives, growth and deadlines.
Second, prioritize on gaining a strong understanding of the business and aligning plans with it. Partner with non-IT leadership to create plans and shared governance and prioritization.
Third, ask for an anonymous 360 review. If you are really focused on your path to readiness for the next level, you need to gain an understanding of the many perceptions of your development needs. The report may include things you don’t want to hear but need to hear. You will need to be fair-minded about your own career as well. Management saw something about this CIO that they didn’t see in you.
Ask your new boss for advice. They are going to need to count on you. Complement them and shine.