Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I am a new CIO

Recent past has seen many young IT professionals make the grade and move up the hierarchy to take on the responsibility of IT Head, some also getting the coveted title of the CIO. For those who made the cut within the same company, it was new found responsibility with new peers willing to guide through the maze. The rest in new positions in new companies charting unknown waters, every swell appeared to trigger emotions of “Titanic” proportions.

One such new CIO gingerly approached for help, tips, advice, anything to help navigate shark and pirate infested courses. Going down memory lane (it was a long lane) trying to collate the thoughts across each early success and challenge, the gushing emotions had to be controlled to provide coherent thought. So we agreed to meet again and mine the memories for actionable insights that can be specifically applied and get some general good practices (almost like doing Business Intelligence, can we call this Mental Intelligence).

Is there a checklist or step-by-step approach that can be used by a new IT leader to gain success ? The answer is yes and no. Yes because there is indeed a framework that helps get started irrespective of variations across different industries or size of company; no because it is not cast in stone and needs to be adapted to the context determined by corporate culture, politics, and industry and company growth. But something is better than nothing. So here is a set of guiding principles; the list is not exhaustive due to space constraints. 
  1. Listen. Understand the business, the technology, the rationale behind the decisions taken, the people involved. Take notes and validate them to ensure you have the facts captured accurately.
  2. Observe. People dynamics is important to success. See how your peers and other heads interact and behave with each other. It gives you perspectives on key influencers and roadblocks
  3. Ask questions. Everyone loves giving away knowledge to the “ignorant”; clarify your doubts and seek to unearth the assumptions if you are in a new industry. Gather finer nuances that make your company different.
  4. Bond. Not just with your team, but also across other peers and across management layers. Be approachable and yet confident of your capability that has got you here so far.
  5. Communicate. When you speak (a people language), do it in a way that you connect with others and they are able to understand you. Whether it is good or bad news, focus on the issue, not personalities.
  6. Manage Expectations. As the newbie expectations will be high or none with most somewhere in between. Set realistic expectations, sometimes stretch, but never overpromise. 
  7. Always meet people. Don’t wait for a problem, issue or project to meet that is transactional and does not build relations. Have a coffee with as many people as often as possible, including vendors.
 Finally if you get stuck seek help from other CIOs or even your boss. Good performers need coaches too.


1 comment:

  1. Arun -Well stated! One metric a new CIO could use would be to measure the reduction in time spent on "technology" issues since most techies seem reluctant to move out of their comfort zone of technology and spend more time on "business"