Of Gary Curtis\u2019s more than three decades as a management consultant, he spent several years running Accenture\u2019s Global CIO Council, a private network of top CIOs, as well as directing the firm\u2019s CIO-focused research program.\u00a0 As such, Gary has a \u201cpanoramic\u201d view of the CIO role.\u00a0 \u00a0I asked Gary to provide some insights into what all CIOs should be focusing on now. \u00a0\n\tWhat is the most critical issue currently facing CIOs?\u00a0\u00a0 \n\tExcept maybe in new companies like Google, the greatest challenge for CIOs is moving the needle on IT spend from non-discretionary investments toward discretionary investments.\u00a0 CIOs need to find the money to help the business develop new products, new services, more efficient processes, and the ability to turn data into profit. \u00a0\u00a0\u00a0When you are working in an environment of constant and unrelenting demand, and when the business leadership says to IT, \u201cYou\u2019ve got to do more for less,\u201d your most powerful option is to shift the spend.\n\tWhy can\u2019t discretionary funding come out of cost reductions in infrastructure? \n\tMost CIOs have already taken major steps in reducing the non-discretionary piece of their spend.\u00a0\u00a0 In fact, they\u2019ve already been so effective in using strategies like global sourcing and virtualization to cut IT costs that the big money is usually off the table. \u00a0There typically isn\u2019t much left to be squeezed out of the non-discretionary part of the IT budget.\n\tThis means that IT has to get better at competing for discretionary money.\u00a0 No one is going to walk in and say, \u201cGuess what!\u00a0 Here\u2019s more funding for you!\u201d \u00a0\u00a0This poses a major challenge for CIOs.\u00a0 Companies have a limited set of bets they can make with their money, and there is a lot of competition for those bets: marketing, product development, and R&D all want piece of that pie.\u00a0\n\tTo make matters more challenging, IT can be at a disadvantage when competing for funds.\u00a0 Some executives believe that projects that have a large IT component cost more, take longer, and sometimes fail.\u00a0\u00a0 When IT has inherited (or earned) a reputation for failure, IT investments receive enormous scrutiny.\u00a0 I would say this is even more so today than in the past.\u00a0\u00a0\n\tWhat are the critical success factors for creating an environment of discretionary funding in IT? \n\tBelievable business cases: In the absence of more money, CIOs have to work with their business partners to come up with a plan for discretionary investing that the business will support. \u00a0\u00a0The best way to compete for limited funding is with a believable business case, including clear accountability for the forecast results.\n\tTrack record for delivery:\u00a0 Any new CIO will need to get some meaningful wins on the table as soon as possible.\u00a0 A track record of good delivery is only tablestakes for competing for funding.\n\tSmaller projects:\u00a0 The business will be more likely to invest in smaller, digestible chunks than in one big, long-term project.\u00a0 As CIO, you will have more control over smaller projects, because you can see what\u2019s not working and make adjustments quickly.\u00a0 Run discretionary projects so that they have check points where you can determine if the solution is going to deliver on the business value that you and your business partners intended.\n\tValue in the first six months:\u00a0\u00a0 CIOs need to be sure that the project delivers value as early as possible, not only when the entire project is complete.\u00a0 This point is rooted in the ERP wave of the last decade. Those ERPs were massive projects that took years, and the business did not see any value for a long time. \u00a0During the three or more years of implementation, the business often changed direction, but the change didn\u2019t get worked into the design of the mega project. \u00a0\u00a0Three years is way too long for a project to deliver initial value.\u00a0 These days, a project should deliver real business benefits in the first six months. In a fast moving business like securities trading, two to four weeks is about as long as long as the business can wait.\n\tGreat project leadership: \u00a0This one is probably the toughest of all: \u00a0Have the right talent in the IT shop with sufficient experience and leadership at the project level. \u00a0Really talented IT people have more options than ever before, and those options will continue to expand, so remember that the project team doesn\u2019t need to be wholly owned by the IT function. Today, if you look inside any major IT shop and see how things are done on a daily basis, only some people are actual employees.\u00a0 \u00a0When you have a relationship with a vendor, where you both have the willingness and commitment to do what\u2019s needed together to get the job done, you can staff your projects for success.\n\tIncentive-based vendor partnerships. Don\u2019t let the lawyers negotiate the vendor deal to death.\u00a0 The best vendor partnerships have a healthy risk\/reward structure, so that everyone is invested in a successful outcome. The world is creating pressures on everyone to do things more efficiently and at lower cost. That means that the CIO needs partners who are incented to find ways to work more efficiently over time.\n\tAbout Gary Curtis\n\tGary is a globally recognized senior Information Technology expert and consultant, now in private practice advising Boards and senior executive teams on improving the business value and controlling the risks of information technology.\n\tFor the past thirty years Gary has built and led major IT Strategy consulting practices and served large enterprise clients around the world.\u00a0 Most recently as Accenture\u2019s Chief Technology Strategist and Global Managing Director of the firm\u2019s Technology Consulting business, Gary has helped many CIOs through large-scale transformations and worked with them to improve the business effectiveness of their IT functions.\n\tBefore Accenture Gary was a Senior Vice President with The Boston Consulting Group, where he was responsible for the creation of the firm\u2019s global IT Strategy practice and its leadership for many years.\n\tEven longer ago Gary led large-scale application development projects for many of the world\u2019s largest financial institutions and companies in other industries.\n\tGary has a degree in physics from the University of Chicago and serves on the advisory boards of several young companies which are developing new technologies.\u00a0 When not on the world\u2019s airlines, he lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.