CIO-as-a-Service

Conclusion: To prepare for the inevitable questioning by senior management of whether an expense line item can be reduced, management must review its breakdown and be prepared to justify it to senior management when asked. Responses must highlight the business risks that will ensue should a selected expense line item in the ICT opex (operating) and capex (capital) expense budgets be reduced. Failing to frame the response in business (risks) terms could delay the review and reflect poorly on ICT management.

Conclusion: A recent Harvard business review article1 reinforced the view that meetings have increased in length and frequency over time from 20 % to nearly 50 % of the working week. This time does not include the planning, reading and preparation of those meeting. Executives such as CIOs or similar should spend some time assessing how effective meetings are in their organisation to return the valuable commodity of time to all and reap the benefits.

Conclusion: Taking the guesswork out of capacity planning by making an informed forecast of demand for computing and support resources for the strategic capacity plan is an ongoing challenge for IT professionals and managers. Reputational damage can ensue when resources are either under or overestimated and there are claims that guesswork was employed.

Conclusion: The 2018 CIO survey1 revealed that the CIO’s influence is stalling, with fewer CIOs on executive boards. However, improving business processing is still the #1 operational priority. To address this priority, CIOs and IT managers should use everyday tools such as calendars to better collaborate with their staff by exploiting and promoting the features of the tools at their fingertips.

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Conclusion: Keeping the executive informed on how the ICT function is performing while advising it how to take advantage of changes in business technology is an ongoing challenge for every CIO or ICT manager.

Astute CIOs know that to get traction with the executive (or equivalent) they must deliver services required by stakeholders while contributing to strategy debates on how to use new technologies to meet the challenges of the future. Getting traction starts with presenting the right ICT-related information to the executive at the right time.

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Conclusion: The differences in roles and responsibilities between an IT professional and line manager are many and need to be understood quickly by the new managers and their peers. Not only will the understanding help both parties make the appointment work but it will also reinforce the selection panel’s appointment decision.

A new line manager must remember that the behaviour and strategies adopted in the IT professional role are unlikely to guarantee success in the new role. This is because the new role is typically a multi-dimensional one in which there are more stakeholders, outcomes are elusive and feedback is minimal.

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Conclusion: The initial gathering of momentum for change is difficult enough to generate, but letting that momentum lapse will make it even more challenging next time to generate the passion and endeavour to improve the modus operandi for the long haul.

Conclusion: One of the objectives of an IT workforce plan is to maximise the use of the skilled IT professionals and project managers and minimise their idle time. Managing the IT workforce plan is a complex task in most organisations as skill levels required may vary by project and by operational support roles.

To be successful, the manager of the plan must maintain a current and accurate skills inventory to assign the right IT professional(s) to the role. The manager also needs to ensure the role is correctly specified so an inexperienced IT professional is not assigned when an experienced one is needed.

Conclusion: Staff remember how leaders behave and react during a crisis, rather than when the business is operating successfully. Astute leaders do not just deal with restoration and getting the business back on deck; they also support their staff during and after the crisis and can even create the potential for the organisation to be in a better state than before the crisis occurred.

Conclusion: In a rapidly changing business environment driven by demand for enhanced client services and immediate access to business data, CIOs who can deliver what is needed will thrive. Conversely CIOs unable to meet the CEO’s and Board’s transformation objectives and leverage service providers could quickly find themselves redundant.

Conclusion: Astute managers know that once a project is completed, skilled staff will be reassigned and their recall of the lessons learned and what worked and what did not is quickly lost. This is because corporate memory dissipates the longer the recall is delayed.

Apart from determining whether the objectives of the project were or were not achieved, an open and frank conversation needs to occur regarding the project’s outcomes and stakeholders need to be:

  • Brave enough to admit failures and shortcomings
  • Modest when highlighting successes
  • Generous in giving credit to all who contributed to the project’s success
  • Prepared to adopt practices and approaches that worked well
  • Comfortable in disseminating the review’s findings to all who need to know.

With financial and economic commentators warning of difficulttimes ahead, CIOs must be prepared and have arguments at their fingertips to justify continued IT investment in corridor conversations or at the Executive (or Board) when all operating budgets arelikely to be under the microscope.

It might be argued that business managers should present the casefor increased IT investment in their business systems, that is as owners or sponsors. However the reality is an increasing numberof information systems cross organisational boundaries and the CIO is often the only manager able to grasp the ramifications of and need for enterprise-wide investment in IT.

Conclusion: The CIO role is one of the most demanding jobs in an organisation as it involves driving the business to new highs based on an effective IT and business partnership arrangement, so IT can act as a services business. To succeed the CIO needs to articulate a vision that is acted on by business managers who assume the role of informed buyers of IT services

Conclusion: The successful IT (line) manager and CIO is one who can comfortably operate in the technical arena and political (organisational) domain at the same time. Whilst the skills to operate in the technical domain can be acquired, those needed for the political domain are more elusive.

In the article entitled, ‘Making the Transition from IT professional to Line Manager’,1 I focused on what IT professionals moving to a line management role needed to do initially to build a foundation for success. In summary the new manager needs to understand the technical requirements of the role and its political dimension and establish effective relationships with major stakeholders.

Conclusion: Many IT departments struggle to understand and meet their client's expectations, often leading to the perception value is not being delivered. One way to address the problem is to appoint CRMs (Client Relationship Managers) who become the client's 'eyes and ears' and represent their interests with dealing with IT. The role is a senior one. Its occupants must be skilled in managing business relations and rewarded accordingly.

Conclusion: Programs aimed at reducing IT and business operating costs are more likely to succeed if the targets are realisable, stakeholders committed and there is a clear roadmap for the journey. Conversely, cost reduction programs that have unrealistic targets, or are the brainchild of senior managers and linked to their incentive bonuses, are unlikely to succeed.

IT due diligence is primarily undertaken to understand the target business IT systems with a view to establishing the resources and costs involved in integrating them into the acquirer’s IT systems, the possibility of the target business having a more suitable IT infrastructure already in place should not be ignored. The IT due diligence exercise must be exhaustive and particular emphasis placed on reviewing and understanding contracts with third parties and the possibilities of rationalising software licences. These are areas where value can often be added in the form of cost savings and improved processes.

Conclusion: Evolutionary changes in the composition of the IT workforce 1 will continue to occur in mature organisations in next 3 to 5 years, but in immature organisations, where the focus is on today’s operations only, revolutionary change will be needed to enable the IT workforce to maximise the benefits from IT-related investment.

Fuelling the need for change in the IT workforce is the continuous enhancement of desk top and business process automation software combined with an increasingly IT literate workforce keen to exploit the latest technologies. In the opposite corner is the need to maintain business systems as usual, keep costs under control and minimise risks from uncontrolled use of the Internet. Senior management’s role is to hold the competing interests in tension.

Conclusion: IT related governance processes in a federated business model, i.e. where autonomous business units or divisions have own IT staff and resources, must focus on what is needed to achieve the strategic objectives of the organisation and at the same time help each unit achieve its potential.

The governance processes typically presume each business unit will cooperate and contribute resources and expertise to the organisation when requested. It is axiomatic that failure to cooperate in the governance, or decision making, processes will frustrate efforts to get the best outcomes for the organisation.

Conclusion: Managers working in a steady state environment, with few major successes and unexceptionable performance metrics, generally struggle to engage their peers at monthly operating performance meetings.

The problem is compounded when peers, who operate in a high profile environment, are able to actively engage the audience at the monthly meeting using attractively presented performance metrics, accompanied by streaming video footage material.

What can managers, including CIOs, who struggle to engage their peers, do to turn the situation around and earn the commendation of the meeting?