Last month, I did an informal online poll to get feedback on what I believe are the top mistakes CIOs make. I based this list in part on errors I've made during my career, as well as those made by my peers in the field.
The following are what I consider to be the top mistakes made by CIOs.
Trusts a vendor
Thinks responsibility is delegated
Not connected to the business needs
Thinks social is a fad
Overpromises and underdelivers
Prices themselves out of a job
Makes assumptions about capabilities
Any CIOs in the crowd will recognize some or all of the above as errors senior IT people make that hinder business goals. But I'll note that, on my poll, one humorous individual chose "Other" and wrote in the answer: "Waste time on useless polls." That gave me a laugh, but perhaps it rings true, considering that only 18 individuals chose to vote at all -- while almost 500 took the time to view the poll.
Nevertheless, I found it enlightening that half the respondents chose "Not connected to the business needs" as their top choice. That was my No. 1 choice, too, as I firmly believe the enterprise is at risk when there's a lack of connection between business goals and IT. In fact, a Google search demonstrates there are more than 1.6 million hits on the topic, making it clear there's still a big, gaping hole between IT and the business for many. This is troubling, as it's now more important than ever for business and IT to be aligned, considering both sides are evolving at ever-rapid rates.
But while that one may be the top mistake, all of the errors listed above are ones CIOs often struggle with, and they're weak points individuals must overcome in order to lead the IT division effectively and best serve the business. So let's address them.
Trusts a vendor: A great CIO will always ask questions of vendors and request contract alterations when necessary. Think ahead and plan accordingly when investing in software and services for your enterprise.
Thinks responsibility is delegated: The CIO role is not just a technical one, nor are CIOs simply IT directors anymore. CIOs who want to be treated like leaders must act like leaders. They must set priorities and strategy and not make the mistake of waiting to be told what to do.
Not connected to the business needs: As noted above, IT and business goals should always (especially today) be aligned.
Thinks social is a fad: Any CIO who still thinks of social media as the enemy is putting him/herself, and the company, at a disservice. Take it from me, a reformed "anti-social" IT guy: CIOs must embrace social, recognize its benefits, and leverage it to better suit business goals.
Overpromises and underdelivers: This is, of course, something any business leader wants to avoid. Rather than fall into this trap, establish what the business problems are in advance, and then set realistic goals in trying to solve them.
Prices themselves out of a job: The job market isn't what it used to be, and surveys show CIO salary in particular has taken a hit. As Kim Davis wrote in a recent blog on Internet Evolution, "Compared with 2010, total compensation in 2011 was eroded by reductions in bonuses, stock options, and benefits, while salary itself stayed relatively flat." CIOs should expect this or risk getting overlooked for a position.
Makes assumptions about capabilities: How often have you lost a skill or ability that was specific to an associate, or made an assumption about a past capability only to find out that the process or tools were replaced, or licenses were canceled? By not being in the front lines as an IT leader, how you apply a past capability will change as you put trust in others and allow them to evolve that skill. Make sure you always understand what your team is capable of today, and not make the assumptions about how you used to handle something.
All in all, the CIO who can avoid making these critical errors will be in a better position to lead the IT division and, in turn, be a successful business leader.
Great in all of the points. We are under Administrative Services. One in particular, I'm at peril, though I'm the senior monkey, a mandatory 5% reduction (immidiately) is lurking my domain. In the reorganization there are several targets who can easily be let go in the next reorg round. However, there are HR observers that are lurking to see that this 'reductions' are according to policy. In my new assignment initial meeting I was asked what I did need to do my work. I asked "direction" (one word) it was obvious they were unprepared to hear this and told me to continue doing what I'm doing. The problem is, there was no direction then, how can one continue doing the same and benefit the organization.
This has proven to me that there is no direction from above my functions. The problem as I see it is that the big honcho is not IT savvy, he came from the HR side and as you said they wonder why they ended up with us.
We are stagnant, no training for many many years and we can't even find justification for approval to attend a single course or out-of-town presentation. Only specific personnel get to have restricted training. Last month's training expenditures in a shop of 235 people was $47.00.
And you are right, in jail cell this small we have no room for progress.
First, Thank you for your contribution to the conversation.
Second, Without even knowing your organization I feel comfortable saying based upon your comments the CIO does NOT sit at the board table with other executives, they report through Finance, Operations, or something more obscure such as HR or Administration.
Finance see IT as a cost center
Operations see IT as you do as a problem in the daily grind
HR/Administration wonder why they ended up with the orphan
Only when an organization gets it, few do, and ask the CIO to sit at the table as a peer and focus on the business as non IT executive will, you start to think about $, FTE's, Market Share, Brand Awareness and so on as teh real impacts of IT - and not how it works.
I fundamentally believe now that CIO's who focus on feeds and speeds will tend to be the ones seen as mechanics and not growth oriented leaders.
This re-focus on the role and it's impact/importance to your business should have been the first thing your leadership should have done before re-hiring. One would have to wonder why she was available again so easily?
But from a business perspective, look at your employer, are they growth oriented, or are they in maintenance mode trying to hold their own. If its's the later, then you should be worried about your future also.
So how did my guessing do in describing your work place?
Nigel, good points. If I may add to the qualities you've listed, the topmost mistake a CIO makes is to take the job. Currently, we vested a new CIO (a re-hire, left the organization for about a year and came back when the incumbent got canned) miracuosly we re-hired her. Her boss is IT ignorant that allows IT related issues take second seat in place to re-structuring like if it was the mailroom (not that there is anything wrong with the mailroom but these are two different fields). She is well educated but managerial skills lack and her influence in our daily grind suffers. Why did we hire her? Well, I wonder. But she knows the organization but never at the CIO level but her social skills are tops, she knows everyone but don't turn you back.
Her style: We do everything; delegate, delegate, no collaboration with other related organizations. No continuity.
Looking at the future: No direction
Chain of Command: Re-organize, gather the wagons the indians are attacking attitude with croonies she trusts.
Sure. The risk has always been there and to me it seems to be getting even higher now considering the ROIs that are been reported by businesses that have taken the lead in that area. I still believe that each business has to find an innovative way to make 'social' work for them and the earlier the business starts that steep learning curve, the better its fortunes will be on th social front.
Paul, fair points. But I suppose the counter argument would be that, with social changing the game so rapidly, CIOs who get in the game too late risk falling behind and losing out to competitors who are innovating in new ways with technologies their customers are using. Thoughts?
I don't think we should categorize the "social as a fad" as an erro on the part of CIOs. As you rightly noted social is kind of like " the new kid on the block". So I will naturaly consider CIOs who were slow to join the social bandwagon as been the conservative type. We still don't know as of yet the real cost to businesses for adopting social so late on.
An anti-social guy with a role critical as that of CIO, deserves immediate removal. For business users, the well-being of systems and system's ability to deliver them output that they expect to be available to make decisions, is a 'hygiene' factor. If it goes wrong, there needs to be a guy with a reputation of a 'guy who can get things done for you'. If it isnt CIO, the business users are entitled to remain hostile towards people from the IT function. The leadership may drown the team there.
On the other hand, if CIO is a guy who is determined helper and soft-spoken and social person, half of the grudges of business users get wiped off immediately.
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