by Julian Goldsmith

Success changes shape

Aug 22, 20123 mins
IT Leadership

IT department’s measures of success are changing.

Ade McCormack’s latest post on FT.comhas picked up some interest in the social media in this respect.

His argument that CIOs can’t be compared as like-for-like with each other when there is such a variety of organisations and business models is also interesting.

He rightly argues that just because one CIO has a team half the size of another’s, that doesn’t mean their achievements are half as great.

The key point that I’m drawing from McCormack’s comment for this post is that CIOs are going to have to re-think their measures for success, not just for themselves but for their teams. Being able to describe what success looks like is a key skill in motivating a workforce and that’s a key requirement for management.

The IT department is experiencing a high degree of disruption, while at the same time being identified in the business as a cost centre ripe for trimming, and yet a key facilitator in enabling other business-lines to achieve efficiencies themselves.

It’s natural that your team should be a bit scared about the challenges that lie before them.

McCormack advises that a large departmental headcount shouldn’t be a universal measure of success and that’s wise council, as IT teams are set to shrink across the board.

The skillsets within the IT department that had value are likely to become more focused on facilitation, rather than coding prowess and skills will be spread across the team much more. Each team member will have to wear many hats.

Big transformational systems built in-house will become less common, so a sense of achievement from being directly involved in creating something tangible will be harder to come by.

Success isn’t judged by what you maintain, that is a baseline, so all of the infrastructure management detail will be regarded as the stuff your team is supposed to be doing and no one will be giving you a standing ovation for doing that.

What is left for the IT team to be seen to dazzle in is the management of information. Here is the opportunity for the IT department to offer levers for business transformation. If the IT department can deliver the business with the knowledge it needs to innovate business processes and productivity, it will get the credit it deserves for doing that.

McCormack is right when he says the true measure of success for IT departments in the near future is in the eyes of their stakeholders.

The days when the IT department could act as an autonomous gate-keeper to the change programs by which the organisation developed are gone.

Increasingly, CIOs are seeing their department as a service unit, judging its performance by the success of other units in the business.

As team leaders, CIOs will need to communicate that to their staff, through PR and changes in the reward mechanisms within their departments.

Ade McCormack also writes a regular column for CIO UK