Q: Most CIOs try to get consensus, but that works only so well. What are your thoughts on being a consensus person versus a benevolent dictator?
A: In IT parenting, it is your job to set boundaries?to act as a benevolent dictator, if you will?when the interests of the individual (or business unit or function) are not aligned with those of the enterprise. The parameters that CIOs should set include strategy, investment policies and decision-making authority, standards and architecture, security and privacy, business continuity, HR standards, development methodologies and tools, and economies of scale. Dictate on the “how to do IT right” issues and leave the decisions on what the company should invest in and why to your business partners.
Q: Interesting thoughts. And here I was telling my staff that I expected them to act like adults because I already had children at home!
A: Don’t change your message. Your staff should assume their role as coparent and not make your life more difficult than it already is by “arguing in front of the children.” A classic example is the IT account representative or project manager who does not support the company’s architectural directions and standards, and shares his disagreements with the business client.
Q: What cost justification models do you recommend to the business? It seems most financial models used for capital investment are weak in quantifying soft benefits, such as improved quality, reduced rework or customer satisfaction.
A: Just because soft benefits can’t be translated into dollars does not mean that they cannot be quantified in what I call operational measurements. All the benefits you list can be measured. A great business sponsor is someone willing to commit to specific improvements based on his understanding of the processes that transform performance.
Q: Do you have a template for a project discovery phase?
A: The client I referred to prepares a business case for submission to the governance council. The business case reviews the purpose of the project, strategic alignment, financial and operational justifications, risk dimensions, sponsorship, timing and required resources.
Q: How can an IT leader show he has the business moxie to shape this IT parenting relationship successfully?
A: The best way for IT leaders to show that they have business acumen is for them to perform successfully in executive-level roles outside of IT. Short of that, make sure you deliver on your commitments (both on projects and operations), ask great questions, and be someone with whom people enjoy doing business.