5 Secrets to CIO Visioning Success

Posted by Amy Fowler Stadler on 4/13/17 12:00 PM
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This past year, we created our CIO Visioning practice within our Technology Enablement capability.  As a result, I have had the opportunity to go through the visioning session with quite a few CIOs.  Each time, they tend to have at least one epiphany, usually tied to their team.  

Looking back, I now have had a few epiphanies of my own. I think there are five key themes that continue to bubble to the top of these sessions for me.

1. Succession Planning

From top down or bottom up, every CIO I have met is very thin when it comes to depth in leadership. There are many factors that play into this challenge, but getting on top of it and truly spending time grooming the next “you” repeatedly is a challenge. It is easy for CIO’s and their leadership to get caught in the “day-to-day”, high visibility job and miss out on making room at the top for their successor and their team's successors.

Many factors should be considered from performance, flight risk, tenure, commitment and more when looking at those next successors – who is worth the investment? Did I mention there is a shortage of technology leaders right now and well into the future? So be sure you are carving out real time on this topic. No, this is not done through an annual review or a few training classes – this takes real dedication and commitment, but can be extremely rewarding.

2. Truly Connecting Business and IT

I would say that CIO’s are doing a better job than in the past taking key business drivers and connecting them to what needs to be accomplished in IT, however, I think we still have a way to go. I think companies fall into two categories here – those that have great business strategy to latch onto and those who do not. Regardless, I tell CIO’s no excuses – let's create the IT strategy from what we know which is either what the CEO is telling the market or what the market is telling the CEO.

Consumerization of technology has been leading change in the past ten years in the enterprise. Amazon created the expectation for ALL businesses to delivery within 24 hours. Smartphones created the demand for all corporations to deliver content to the phone. I could go on, but I think you get the picture. Consumers are setting expectations everywhere and customer experience is at the forefront of those organizations winning the race.

3. Technology Debt

As most of us know, when a CIO takes on an organization – they may know what they are getting into or they may be from the outside looking in. One of the first areas they must tackle is what does their technology debt look like. For some companies who may have been around 100 years – unless they have constantly focused on technology transformation, they are likely sitting on a lot of applications kept together with string, infrastructure that is outdated and get buried under the daily task of keeping that mess together and not getting to focus on the important things like innovation, business enablement, etc.

4. The “Gotcha’s” of an IT Operating Model

Did you know that there are no less than 20 strategic areas to consider when developing an IT Strategy and another 45 process areas to effectively run the business of IT? It can be overwhelming but what I tell CIO’s is focus on the Gotcha’s first – security, core business enabling applications, customer service, infrastructure and more. There is a reason why cloud, SaaS, and outsourcing Infrastructure is expected to continue to boom. CIO’s are making room for the important stuff. By doing this, it allows the team to get a chance to mature the other vast list at a pace they can consume without being overwhelmed and normally it will also keep you with the title CIO for a period longer than two years.

5. Innovation

So who has time for this? CIO’s that are leading the pack are making time. There is an expectation out there that the technology leadership owns bringing technology innovation to the business and at a clip most cannot imagine. Anywhere from 15%-20% of your time and dollars should be spent on innovation. Here in Colorado, we have a massive number of startups. If CIO’s and their team are not getting this done, someone else will. This is a culture change that must occur at the top. There is no idea too crazy. I ask my 17 and 14-year-old to tell me all the time what they want, what they see as we all know they are the Gen Z who have pretty much lived with technology since they were born. I for one am still waiting for my autonomous vehicle, groceries ordered and dropped at my house within hours of my request by a drone, and more. The great part about innovation is it is limitless!

I personally love facilitating these sessions and getting to see the CIO job from the inside out. We recently held a session with - let us say fifty IT leaders and asked how many wanted to raise their hand for the CIO job. Guess how many raised their hand – none! 

I was a bit taken aback by that and realize this CIO job is not for the faint of heart, and it is a role that touches every aspect of a business. Technology can make or break a business as much as a line of business inside a corporation can.  I continue to be hopeful that we mature this role, make room for the new leaders in this role, and continue to transform the world around us with technology!

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Topics: Executive Playbook, IT Strategy