by Eric Berkman

Tips for Being a Company’s First CIO

Oct 15, 20012 mins

1 be on the same page. Before you accept the job, make sure you and the executives agree on your IT vision and how you’re going to pull it off. If the executives aren’t behind you, no one will be.

2 don’t criticize the work of your predecessors. There may not have been a CIO, but somebody was in charge of IT. “Your predecessors have history, respect and relationships within the organization,” says Kimberly Nelson, the first CIO of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. “Nurture them to your benefit.”

3 find someone you trust to help you navigate your company’s culture and bureaucracy. “Not only do you have to introduce yourself to the company, you have to introduce your position and perhaps a whole new organization,” Nelson says. “If you don’t understand the people, values and mores, you can spend a lot of time spinning your wheels.”

4 step back and catch your breath. Don’t be swept into immediate projects without taking the time to survey the environment and playing field, says Ray Causey, former first CIO of Mail Boxes Etc. Take a month or two to review the state of your company’s technology. Then you’ll make smarter decisions about which projects to pursue, which to curtail and which to terminate.

5 establish basic practices around i.t. requests and enhancements. With no prior CIO, your company most likely lacks any organized procedure for processing internal customer demands. The employees are used to doing things ad hoc or even by themselves. Creating a process can be a quick first step toward consolidating IT and developing a technology strategy, says Opinder Bawa, the former first CIO of Netro.

6 meet with i.t. staff one-on-one. They’ll better understand you, why you’re there and how they fit into your plans, Causey says. If you’re lucky, you may just win them over.

7 Form a council of i.t. and business leaders to set technology priorities. It’s your chance to educate executives on what IT can or can’t do and how long projects will take. It’s a chance for them to articulate their needs. It’s also a chance for the whole company to develop realistic IT expectations, Bawa says.