Your First 100 Days as CIO

Yes! You got the job!! After the gruelling preparation, tough competition and difficult interviews, the hiring committee made the right decision and gave you the CIO job. The company looks great, and you just know you can help them. You can’t wait to get started. They hired you to hit the ground running, and you are ready. You know you can help right away, and plan to begin on your first day.

But wait.

Don’t begin to chop down some trees before you get a chance to see the forest.

When you begin your new job, everyone wants you to succeed. I call this the “CIO honeymoon effect”. Everyone thinks that you will be able to solve all the IT problems in the organization, and will go out of their way to help and support you. For the first while, you can do no wrong. You will get accolades for even small changes. You are the IT Saviour they’ve been waiting for.

But, I can assure you, the honeymoon effect won’t last as project deadlines slip, systems crash, or (heaven forbid) you have a major security breach.

Here is a rough guide for your first 100 days as CIO that should set a baseline, extend the honeymoon effect and help to set you up for success in the long run.

1. Interview your boss. You really need to understand how the IT department is positioned in the organization and how it is perceived by your boss. Understand your boss’s perspectives about the strengths and weaknesses of your new department. Where are the service gaps? What were the big successes, and big failures in the past? How does the boss see technology (a necessary evil or an enabler)? Consider what type of CIO the organization needs (see “Are you the right Type of CIO” post for some ideas). Ask probing questions. Take lots of notes.

2. Meet the team. Hold a team meeting as soon as you possibly can. Your new team is going to want to see who the new boss is. Tell them about yourself! Let them know you will be learning for the next while and to be patient. Tell them your plans (see steps 3-10 below).

3. Interview department heads. How do your internal clients perceive the IT Department? Again, where are the gaps? Where are the strengths? What key projects are under way for their department? How does their department use technology? Are there ways that they would like to use technology to enable or even transform their department or business, but haven’t been able to get traction on? Who are the key people in their department that you need to connect with? This step establishes right away that you will be accountable for your department going forward. Again, take lots of notes.

4. Interview your managers. How is the team organized? How well does it function? Where are the gaps? Who are the star performers? Do your teams work together or are there internal conflicts? I like to use SWOT analysis as a structure for managers interviews to understand the state of the team. Discover how work is organized. Determine the effectiveness, from their perspective, of any existing IT governance. How is IT policy authored and maintained (non-existent, informal, formal)? Which departments are currently your supporters, and which are your detractors. And, very importantly, where are the land mines?

5. Understand the budget. How is budgeting done in your organization? What exactly do you have budgetary control over? Are you expected to grow, maintain, or cut the budget? How are major IT upgrades and cyclical hardware refreshes budgeted for? How do you go about making changes to the budget (as you will inevitably need to do)?

6. Inventory your systems and project portfolio. List the major areas you are now responsible for. What ERP’s do you have? What state are they in (new/unstable, stable and maintainable, legacy, needs replacement)? What infrastructure components do you have? Again, what state are they in. Now, list the projects that are underway, and analyse, critically, what state the projects are in. Is each project on the pathway to success, or is it a slow-moving train wreck?

7. Conduct an IT Services survey. This can be a humbling experience for your new team, but do it anyway. Ask your clients to give you honest feedback about your department’s services. Remember you don’t own what has happened in the past, but you DO own what will happen in the future. This survey will set a baseline for your work going forward. Consider having a 3rd party do this for you. A survey tool I like to use is the Info-Tech’s CIO Vision Survey. Commit to doing another survey a year from now, so you can measure your progress.

8. Establish a plan. Use all this information to establish a plan moving forward. Stick to a 1-year plan at first, with other items tagged as “on the horizon”. Establish this plan collaboratively with your managers. This planning exercise will help you understand your managers’ work styles, their biases, and their sacred cows. I was once given the advice that when you become king, you must burn 3 villages to establish your leadership and authority. Of course, a CIO is not a king, and you won’t be burning anything, but the idea is worth considering. When you start in your position, the time is right to begin difficult but necessary major changes. Remember the honeymoon effect, and use this time to make progress on the tough issues. Your team will thank you, and the organization will thank you.

9. Present your plan. Present your plan to your boss and your department heads. Then to your team. Get feedback and refine if necessary.

10. Nail it. Make sure that you meet all commitments you made in your plan. Make sure your goals and progress toward them is kept transparent. Even if things aren’t going exactly as planned.

Stay transparent to your staff and internal clients. Meet any issues head on. You want the honeymoon to last as long as possible!

If you have done other things (or wish you had!) in your first 100 days as CIO, I’d be grateful if you used the comment section below to share your thoughts.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Stephen Abraham
Stephen Abraham
Stephen Abraham is the CIO and IT Director for the Medical Council of Canada, the organization that issues Licenciates for Physicians practicing medicine in Canada. Mr. Abraham has been a CIO for a decade. He has made many mistakes during his 30 years in IT, and has learned a few things along the way.

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