by Stephen Elliot

CIO strategy and planning: 4 principles for high-performing IT

Jul 02, 2015
CareersCIOCloud Computing

CIOs and their teams should focus on four key areas to develop a high performing IT organization. Key delivery technologies and processes include private, public and hybrid cloud delivery models, mobile, analytics, security, devops, automation, software-defined data centers, converged fabrics and containers.

Man drawing business strategy    181422430
Credit: Thinkstock

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark.” Michelango

What a phenomenal time to be a CIO. CIOs and their teams I advise are going through tremendous transformation. CIO should stand for Change Initiates Optimization. We have not seen this level of opportunity for CIOs and their teams since the late 90s. Over the past 6 months, I have spoken with and presented to CIOs in the U.S., Dubai, Turkey, India, South Africa and Nigeria. Two key, common questions come up:

1) “Where should I start?”

2) “What should I do?”

While every CIO situation is unique, there are four guiding areas that CIOs should use as their focal points in transforming their organizations into high-performing IT organizations. These are:

1) Strategy and measurement: To gain a seat at the strategy table, CIOs and their teams need to expand their constituent base across business leadership, and their supporting teams. Having an in-depth understanding of the corporate, and business unit (BU) strategies help establish trusted business relationships across multiple layers of tactical execution. This in turn can enable a broader seat for IT during the strategic planning process, with business stakeholders located in both corporate and business unit leadership positions leading to more engagement at critical decision making points throughout the process.

As new product ideas and new business models emerge, technology executives can enable a high value discussion about enabling the ideas with technologies, people and processes. The need for CIOs to drive business management accountability has never been more important. For example, 35 percent of IT projects fail not because of IT, but because of the business. Business executives either change priorities, or become disinterested in their participation in IT’s projects. CIOs have made the push to understand business requirements, however many business executives have not reciprocated.

Creating clear lines of accountability, and having metrics that are meaningful, and that measure strategic progress and executive accountability, will help CIOs drive more business impact across the organization, at multiple levels. Another key areas is transparency; notably around costs. The more visibility that costs have across the business and technology teams, the better the level of accountability. At the end of the day, IT’s core focus should be on enabling the business, and providing “speed” as a competitive, sustainable advantage.

2) Security, audit and compliance: Security is now a CEO and board level issue. Audit and compliance are close behind. Reducing and mitigating business risk is at the core of these functions, as is having a common standard outcome. As such, CIOs can drive higher performance by planning out these three areas with the business, as well as looking for opportunities to embed these requirements into the broader IT organizational structure.

In the past, audit and compliance requirements have been an afterthought across most of IT; brought into the project after the service was deployed. It was to too late, and costly. With new automation and security technologies emerging, and IT organizational structures changing (silo consolidation), CIOs can reduce risks by driving more collaboration with these teams before writing code, or deploying hardware.

3) Service delivery: Cloud delivery models, mobile, analytics, security, DevOps, automation, software-defined anything, converged fabrics, containers and organizational and process changes are destroying the legacy IT model for service delivery. Simply put, IT is being deconstructed.

CIOs require business process knowledge and access to skills that combine technology, business, marketing and financial acumen. They need the ability to automate processes and assure CEOs that the technology investments drive direct business value  through measured outcomes. They must have the ability to redefine how the business garners value from IT through the use of staff, processes and new technologies are key capabilities that lead to high performing organizations. With new delivery options and sources (private, public, hybrid cloud), CIOs must move to a service broker model and adapt their technology, business and negotiation skills accordingly.

4) Culture and staffing: Changing a culture is hard to do; it requires an attack plan for both the top and bottom of an organization; and real reasons as to why people should change their attitudes and behaviors. New behaviors must be rewarded, and tools and processes must change to optimize results. CIOs must also consider their current culture and the traits that enable or inhibit a high performing IT organizations. Traits that matter include collaboration, trust, measurement and metrics, real empowerment, risk allowance, the ability to fail and staff and training development.