Identify, kill nonessential projects, CIO recommends

If he were writing a song about his first 18 months in the top IT post at BMC Software Inc., CIO Jay Gardner might call it “I Learned It the Hard Way.”

Gardner, who spoke this week at the Computerworld Premier 100 conference here, held sales and operations positions at Houston-based BMC before becoming CIO. In that post, Gardner said he had to learn from his mistakes.

The first of those, he said, was trying to solve too many problems at the same time. Having reviewed a 2002 Gartner Inc. study of key issues on CIOs’ minds, Gardner took a crack at more than a dozen — too many, as it turned out. He soon switched gears and took direct aim at the top three issues: aligning IT and the business, providing guidance and leadership about technology to top executives, and proving IT’s value.

“These are absolutely the top three things to worry about,” Gardner told a packed breakout session titled “IT Governance and Organizational Effectiveness.”

“It’s not so much about the IT organization, but about how I personally spend my time,” he said. How and where CIOs spend their time will reflect directly on their success in meeting their top three challenges, he added.

Topping the issues on which Gardner said he spends the most time are IT governance, people and resources management, and IT architecture. Rounding out the list are business alignment and services management.

“When all five of these are working together, you can drive good alignment and IT value,” he said.

Among the key challenges Gardner faced when he came into the CIO’s job was prioritizing the various IT projects under way at the software maker. A companywide survey showed that 128 different projects were already in progress, many of which had no business owner and no return on investment attached to them.

His advice to other CIOs: “Find stuff not to do. Cross off projects from the list.”

One of Gardner’s key achievements so far has been repositioning IT workers to work on projects for which they have the necessary skills.

“Fifteen months ago, we took a skills inventory and found that we had a lot of talent that was not being used by people in their current jobs,” he said. BMC redeployed workers accordingly, boosting morale in the process.