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 at the recent Computerworld Premier 100 conference in Arizona, 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 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 said. “It’s not so much about the IT organization, but about how I personally spend my time.”

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.

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