“A Quick Guidebook for CIOs”

Our inter connected world requires vision to steward our resources towards their best and highest use.
Our interconnected world requires vision to steward our resources towards their best and highest use.


Transformational Leadership in the Digital Age


The new CIO is a complete leader, no longer just seen as a business expense, and relegated to the support heap of techie. To achieve the true C-status CIO’s should focus on business objectives, and think and act like the CEO. The new CIO has to be a visionary and change agent for the benefit of the enterprise. This requires a great deal of time and effort and team building. After all, your team is no better than the weakest link in the chain.



“Jack-in” to Understand the Team’s Value


One of the first tasks at hand is to understand who your team is so that you can begin to address business continuity (BC). Your role requires you “jack in” to the pulse of your team. Each individual is a unique asset, and your leaders must understand what drives them and how best to utilize their talents. This level of understanding is paramount to a healthy culture and a success-driven technology department. That one operations guy or engineer who carries the bulk of the security framework in his head is a business liability. The middle age guy who has been with you for 15 years managing your tape storage is unwilling to embrace flash or VM and is a liability. These examples are given as a backdrop to two things: the change curve and human capital planning.

The change curve has visionaries (about 10%), innovators (about 25%), status quo (about 30%), laggards (about 20%), and finally the blockheads (about 15%). I’ll save the attributes of these folks for another time, but the thought follows “Who is capable of moving forward with change without fighting you or dragging their feet?” Business landscapes continue to change rapidly and meeting the technology challenge moves just as fast. Once you know your team you can move into step two to plan for change.

Planning human capital has a few components: cost, task, efficiency and personality. Cost is resource that is finite and budgets only allow for so much growth; therefore, your plan will likely take shape as a 3-5 year road map. Task refers to breaking down the organization functionally without respect to who will actually fill the role. Try rewriting departmental job descriptions with an eye to metrics. Efficiency is the function of design, task and metrics – design your teams so that form follow function and you define outcomes. Task is the tactical definition of what each role does day-to-day, and metrics are the outcomes you expect for each individual. Metrics are a large and complex subject, but I will leave you with one simple way to control them: use an action plan, scorecard and roll up each individual into a management control plan[1] (MCP).

Once you achieve departmental alignment and begin to measure efficiency, you can focus on matching technology to business goals. The CIO role should be able to identify how technology syncs with the brand and how, where, what and when products or services are sold through channels to measure ROI.  Measuring output and displaying this for the CEO, CMO and CFO demonstrate mastery of moving the business forward.

To meet business goals, the CIO must seek wise advice on what drives the business now, so an asset inventory and application mapping needs to be accomplished. With these in hand, advice on architecture is advisable to map future needs. Obviously, resources are limited for capital outlays, but a 3-5 year plan to refresh, reduce footprint, increase life cycle, implement virtual solutions, improve failover and availability, improve disaster recovery, and commit to homogenous solutions will net benefits and gains for technology and the business.

Finally, the new CIO should benchmark industry Best Practices for all major changes. The planning, definition and measuring of the initiatives will pay dividends, as CIOs will be able to report progress and success to the Board of Directors. A great area for cost savings is dev cycle time – ePaaS. A typical .Net and Java shop can cut dev stack cycle time to 30 days instead of 6 – 9 months!


cyber security

Focus on protecting the enterprise most valuable asset – the Customer!


A final thought for CIOs is cyber security investment. Processes, as much as tools, need to be revisited and the scope and size of the enterprise landscape defined. Closing gaps require a specialized team of cyber experts to continuously monitor, tweak and improve cyber security. It is my experience that keeping the security team in house is about the same as outsourcing, but keeping control over all aspects of your disaster preparedness plan may provide a better defense due to accountability!

So to recap, the challenges of the fast-moving digital landscape requires the CIO know the team, redefine roles, improve architecture and infrastructure, manage and effectively communicate change, and hire contingent labor where needed to achieve a successful Road Map that meets the business goals!


About the Author:

Dave Howell is a business and technology consultant with Hi Merit, which has been serving clients from Fortune 50 to small and median sized businesses improve performance since 2003.  Dave’s PMI certification, Master’s in 6-Sigma and his business sales and marketing experience all integrate to an apex of a formidable strategic planner to help leaders formulate and execute improve plans and change management.

[1] Management Control Plan is a roll up of metrics that follow the business goals and are defined at each level. Action plans support the MCP at each level and the scorecards are used at each level to demonstrate progress.