Modern Methods

Today, the role of the CIO is as demanding as ever. Most CIOs are leading their organization to achieve benefits from the use of information technology. The rest are engaged in determined and sometimes desperate acts of short-term self-preservation.

Given these dynamics in the business environment,

here are some ideas for enhanced CIO success and reduced CIO insecurity.

1. The successful CIO knows information technology has enormous value to the business, even if it’s difficult to describe and to quantify the value without challenge from other executives. For example, Canadian Tire’s successful Web strategy rapidly evolved into a vital component of its overall retailing strategy.

2. The successful CIO seeks out and communicates information technology success stories that are taken for granted until the CIO makes a point of spotlighting them. For example, Mike Cuddy, CIO of Toromont Industries, videotapes executives ex-plaining the value of specific IT initiatives, and plays one of these short clips at each IT strategy meeting with the executive team.

3. The successful CIO knows an exclusive focus on IT cost reduction is a doomed strategy. Sometimes cost reduction is the strategy that the CFO, who should have this focus, imposes on the CIO. While every IT organization can reduce costs, no IT organization can continue that strategy for years in succession without undermining availability, service and functionality.

4. The successful CIO is cost-conscious but continually shifts the conversation to educating the executive team about the benefits that IT is delivering for the organization. To drive the point home, it’s useful to ask hypothetical questions: “”How long could we function if we lose the ERP system or the e-mail server?””

5. The successful CIO ensures that IT costs are borne as much as possible by the business departments that use the applications and receive the benefits. For example, each department forecasts how many seats it wants to pay for to use major applications like ERP and CRM. This approach dramatically reduces the IT budget and forces individual departments to be more prudent in their consumption of IT services.

6. The successful CIO asserts himself. In some organizations, the CIO, even though he or she wears a business suit, is privately viewed as a propellerhead. This label is sure to exclude the CIO from pivotal meetings where business strategy is discussed. Under these circumstances, the CIO will become the convenient scapegoat for the next problem that is presumed to be IT-related.

7. The successful CIO goes to great lengths to nurture a relationship with each member of the executive team, seeks to understand the business imperative that each executive is working to achieve, and ensures that the IT department gives priority to those imperatives.

The work of the successful CIO is dominated by leadership, communication and education. It’s not about technology. It’s certainly not about becoming a convenient scapegoat for the mismanagement or neglect of others.

Yogi Schulz is president of Corvelle Consultants in Calgary.

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