Effective CIOs completed their 2018 planning some time ago. For this reason, late December was the perfect time to capture CIO perspectives on 2018. There were clear themes but also interesting differences of perspective. I asked the CIOs in the #CIOChat four questions. I was fortunate to have a large group of CIOs participate from around the world. Here is a summary of what I learned from them.
What did they want to accomplish in 2018?
CIOs were clear that goals should differ depending upon situations and industries. Things, however, that made an aggregate list included:
- Creating a vision of what is possible in leveraging technology
- Aligning technology with business strategies
- Adopting new solutions
- Modernizing legacy applications
- Institutionalizing DevOps
- Improving data management/business intelligence
- Increasing automation
- Consolidating applications onto the cloud
- Sun setting old applications
- Improving security
Some CIOs chose to talk as well about IT capabilities. They felt it was important for IT to improve strategic planning, product management, service management, and governance. CIOs in general feel that they should be talking less about technology and more about the needs of the business. Achieving this was seen as enabling IT to become a partner instead of a cost center. CIOs as whole want technology to be an integral or a leading part of business strategy. This means considering IT investment as a strategic investment versus an operational expense.
Part of doing this well here requires CIOs to have more conversations about people and process. Some CIOs feel that they need to expand their capacity for finding, evaluating, and implementing new technology. Former Educational CIO, Joanna Young, suggests, however, that CIOs should be striving to:
- Make and meet the right commitments
- Become better servant-leaders
- To deliver ever-higher value to clients via increased employee engagement and skills
- To show the way to a better place
Clearly, CIOs can be instrumental in changing the business and disrupting industries. Part of doing is seen as a focus on customer centricity. This clearly demands increasing the use of data analytics in decision making. It, also, involves getting CIOs more involved in their organizations. CIOs that do this well make sure to attend other leaders’ stand-ups. They seek small wins with new stakeholders to demonstrate value. They look for new channels and sources of information. They are willing to be wrong to enable organizational learning. And finally, they seek to turn their team from IT leaders into business technology leaders.
What relationships do CIOs want to improve in 2018?
An interesting part of doing the above well involves fiercely seek opposing points of view and more active listening. It also can involve making professional relationships ‘sticky’ by staying in touch with coworkers. When asked about what relationships they most want to improve CIOs say it is marketing and finance.
But CIOs need to change themselves as well. CIOs say that they need to be put real attention into becoming positive relationship builders. A part of this can involve repairing existing relationships with historical problem relationships. In terms of scope, CIOs need to go beyond their obvious circle. They need to make their network a force multiplier for themselves, their colleagues, and their organization. This means leading down and across the organization. It means reaching business leaders and their customers. It can lead to relationships up, down, and sideways. Beyond this, CIOs need to build their personal networks. This network needs to include CIOs inside and outside their industry. The latter is critical to surfacing new and relevant ideas.
What investments do CIOs want to make in 2018?
CIOs are clear that they do not want to invest just in the next whizzy technology trend. They want to make investments there, but they want to ensure that they drive business value and lead to real business innovation. CIOs say that they want to invest in people, time with colleagues, and being customer focus. They stress that people should be their number 1 investment goal—this includes training, education, and personal growth. They believe that investing in their team and what they need is good for business. They say that investing in people and skills is required to innovate and to accelerate the ability to respond to change. Clearly, while digital transformation and the technology that goes with it should be on the CIOs lips none of this matters if CIOs don’t care for their team, don’t understand the why for a business focus, and don’t focus on delivering to the business’ customers.
Biggest change CIOs want to make in 2018
CIOs had many things on this list. Given this, I have put this into a Top 10 list…starting with item 12 (sorry, the list was that good):
12. Create high quality predictable delivery.
11. Move from ops to preparing for new people, new skills, and new technology.
10. Know the business and markets that you are in.
9. Minimal viable governance–recognized importance but do not be taken over by it.
8. Get out with customers.
7. Ask more stupid questions. Challenge more assumptions.
6. Relationships with key lines of business and make marketing an ally.
5. Create a digital workforce organization wide—enable digitally talented people across the organization.
4. Move as close as possible to the reason your business exist.
3. Be more open to change and where to find it than ever before.
2. Reconsider control and lose any lingering defensiveness.
1. Be a better leader
My sincere hope is that this post will provide you with a few insights that will make you a better technology leader in 2018. CIOs can and should matter to their organizations. Hopefully, this post moves you in that direction. And thank you to the CIOs in the #CIOChat for sharing their wisdom in 2017.