IT Leadership Boiled Down to 5 Elements

There isn’t any flashy writing or trendy technology here. No mention of clouds, Facebook or Twitter. But the new book World Class IT (Jossey-Bass, 2009), by consultant Peter A. High , provides solid — dare I say timeless — advice for CIOs trying to manage IT for business success.

The book takes the CIO’s complex world and boils it down to the following core principles (stated here verbatim):


1. Recruit, train and retain world-class IT people.

2. Build and maintain a robust IT infrastructure.

3. Manage projects and portfolios effectively.

4. Ensure partnerships within the IT department and with the business.

5. Develop a collaborative relationship with external partners.

Each principle gets its own chapter, and each one includes subprinciples, such as “maximize systems’ uptime” and “align IT with the business’s strategy.” But what’s interesting is that High says new CIOs should tackle those issues in the order presented above, starting with people and then moving on to developing a reliable IT infrastructure.

While these days it would be tempting to start with No. 4, the IT-business alignment principle, High says you need to get your IT house in order if you want to gain the credibility you’ll need to work with other C-level execs. Besides, it’s possible to have great business alignment but faulty IT plumbing.

That’s what happened to Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. , which got glowing press for its IT-business alignment but hadn’t paid enough attention to disaster recovery issues, according to the book’s forward by former Harrah’s CIO John Boushy. High’s methodology pointed out the deficiency, Boushy says.

Along the way, High provides an amazing number of metrics that CIOs can use to measure their progress along the five frontiers he outlines. The metrics might be the most valuable part of the book, especially for IT departments struggling to figure out how to measure their performance.

Be forewarned: High says the journey from ordinary to world-class IT can take several years, and even then you can’t rest on your laurels.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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