There are habits and practices that enlightened CIOs are employing to adapt to the changing global business landscape, engineer their IT organizations for high performance, position themselves to thrive in the 21st century, and be valuable contributors to business success. While there are no guarantees, and every company may not be able to afford the transformation process or time frame, high-performance IT practices are the future for success-minded CIOs. Can you or your business afford not to head in this direction? Are you, in some way, engaged in leading your organization into the future via the nine passions of highly enlightened CIOs?
Last month we looked at four of those nine passions: 1. Demassifying and driving agility; 2. Cultivating peer business relationships; 3. Executing on both their full-time jobs; and 4. Seeking top talent and building great teams.
Here then are the remaining five passions:
5. WORKING TO ENSURE THEIR STAFF UNDERSTANDS WHY THEY COME TO WORK EVERY DAY
It takes a whole village. It also takes an entire IT organization to make success happen. Enlightened CIOs not only know how to build teams, but they know how important it is to get everyone rowing in the same direction at the same time at the right pace. They spend a lot of time helping everyone on their team understand what they know about the business. People who understand the business and its strategy will also better understand how they help make that strategy come to life – and they’ll get a lot more excited about doing it. When decisions are made that negatively impact them, they will better tolerate them because they understand the business logic.
People who are valued and not treated as pawns will spend a lot more time working with you for success and carrying the ball for you when you are looking the other way. CIO leaders treat their team with respect by encouraging as much information democracy and transparency as possible, because that’s how they themselves expect to be treated. Do you have a formal communication program in place? How often do you walk the halls and make yourself accessible to the troops?
6. PURSUING HIGHLY PREDICTABLE OUTCOMES FROM INVESTMENTS AND MANAGING OUT RISK
“Faster, better, cheaper” is the rallying cry of the future. On time, on budget, on scope, and on quality are the means to achieving that goal. Smart CIOs work hard at building best practices “science” into the way their IT organizations work, and minimizing art and guesswork. With best practices comes predictability, from habit and expectation. There is nothing more demoralizing for both business partners and the IT team than to deliver commitments late, be over budget, deliver less capability than expected, or, worse, deliver a product that is of poor quality. Enlightened CIOs know that regardless of the reasons for these outcomes – even when the reasons don’t directly stem from IT issues – they will get wet from the splash of the bad news.
This is the 21st century. There are libraries of high-performance behaviors and processes that are documented and must be engineered into the way effective and predictable IT organizations work. Every CIO may not be able to afford transformational reengineering, but movement toward the best practices I’ve outlined should minimally be a part of your long-term organizational direction.
Developing a consistent systems development lifecycle (SDLC) for your business is crucial. At the front end of the SDLC is the process in which business requirements and expectations for delivering value are defined. According to the November 2005 issue of CIO Magazine, industry analysts found that 71% of projects that fail do so because of bad business requirements. There are many opportunities for most companies to improve efficiencies and predictable outcomes across the project lifecycle. Once business requirements are “baked,” what formal process do you use to manage change and scope creep? How do you manage resources (business and IT folks, budget dollars, assets) on a project? Do you plan business resources into your resourcing model? How do you ensure the right business team members will be available when it’s time to test and ensure quality before going into production?
7. FINDING THE RIGHT WAY TO SERVE THEIR BUSINESSES AT THE RIGHT PRICE, THE RIGHT LOCATION, AND THE RIGHT SERVICE LEVEL
The terms “outsourcing” and “offshoring” have become today’s default vernacular for what someday we will just call “sourcing.” Starting in the mid-1990s, outsourcing became the knee-jerk reaction to the need to cut costs, and offshoring added to the conversation when technology enabled us to move work overseas. We have learned over the last decade that there are best practices for using third parties as part of our business operational service model. Conversely, there are also bad habits that derive from slapdash attempts to achieve quick value, which don’t really get us the value we seek.
The large outsourcing firms will tell you that outsourcing megadeals are dead. Successful outsourcing is hard work without shortcuts. Organizations must do the right homework, building an understanding of costs and processes in their current-state environment and then agreeing on what is truly core to business success in order to manage the transition and ongoing relationship. Smart CIOs are building the capability to be great general contractors into the fabric of their organizations. IT organizations that do not have the necessary financial and procurement processes, rigor, insight, and access to information will struggle in the future in building and maintaining successful subcontractor relationships.
Improved foundations for partnering are being planned and implemented into technology architectures via the modularized, componentized nature of service-oriented architecture (SOA), both in the third-party software and hardware we buy and in our own enterprise architectures. Since services or measurable pieces are more assessable, we are better able to perform on and measure service-level agreements (SLAs), thereby enabling third-party integration into our service operations.
As we look to modularize and componentize our business processes, and we do the same with SOA as we build technology, we are essentially creating the foundation for increased sourcing choices in the way we choose to service our businesses. In building this technology and process foundation and showing what it costs to perform a service (e.g., taking an order, shipping a product, answering a call), we enable more choice in how things get done and at what price, whether the services are internally delivered or partnered out. Are you engaged in building this level of flexibility into your environment?
8. MEASURING AND MAKING FACT-BASED BUSINESS DECISIONS
The facts will set you free! Given a choice, most people would rather have cold, hard facts available to assist decision making than rely on instinct, experience, and/or fortune. Enlightened CIOs know that having facts to help their businesses make decisions, especially involving IT issues, takes a lot of emotion out of many potentially sticky situations. Our businesses simply can’t afford, nor should they tolerate, decisions and investments driven by the loudest voice in the room or old relationships.
Of course, the CIO should not use facts indiscriminately, and it would be foolhardy to ignore the reality of loud voices and politics. Nevertheless, used well, the facts will help smart businesspeople make better decisions, and they will position the CIO as an unbiased operator. Smart CIOs are building measurement systems into their operations