As we begin 2022, it’s time to think about your resolutions as a CIO that will help you take the next step forward.
Rather than a list of known programs, projects, products to implement across IT and the business, or staples such as improving the organization’s cybersecurity posture, consider this your personal development list for 2022. Choose the ideas that resonate the most with you and that will advance your most important goals.
Implement your boldest idea
One idea implemented is worth at least ten ideas still in the innovation pipeline. Look for ideas within your most disruptive categories of ideas and aim to implement at least one of them—preferably your boldest. Depending on the size of your innovation portfolio (i.e., the number of ideas in your pipeline) and your typical conversion rate, you may even want to target more. This, of course, is in addition to going after those “quick wins” that are the tactical or incremental ideas that will help demonstrate steady progress. Getting your boldest idea implemented in 2022 will be a key achievement and will test your political savvy in navigating the organization as well as your business and technical chops.
Determine your role in sustainability
If you haven’t yet started, determine the role your IT organization will take in support of the company’s sustainability agenda and how you will move forward. The role of IT can be significant: You can reduce IT’s own GHG emissions, implement enterprise systems to help the organization account for and report on its overall GHG emissions, or even ensure that your digital transformation initiatives are reducing and not increasing these emissions. Consider all three areas, your current state at the beginning of the year and the key outcomes you’d like to achieve by year’s end. Work closely with the relevant stakeholders and, regardless of how bold the ambition (this varies widely by industry), you’ll be able to step up to sustainability in 2022.
Get hands-on with a new technology
There are likely 10 to 20 emerging technologies and trends on your radar every year. Some may be repeats from last year as you track what’s new and different this year and how these trends are evolving and maturing, while others may be new entrants. You also likely get a lot of “What’s this <new trend> all about and what’s our position?” type of questioning from peers. To take your response to the next level in 2022, get hands-on so you have firsthand experience. Check out a quantum computer. Fly a drone. Visit the physical side of a digital twin. Ride an autonomous vehicle. Watch a LiDAR survey in action. While the digital side can be explored via the desktop, it’s these physical elements that can help to complete understanding as well as open up ideas for the art of the possible.
Try a new analyst firm or coverage area
While you’ve likely been using the same analyst firm for several years, trying a new firm or a new coverage area can get you some fresh perspectives. This could be an additional firm, a replacement of your existing firm, or simply some additional focus areas. If that’s too big a lift, try speaking with some new analysts at your existing analyst firm. Look to find analysts who listen carefully, who aren’t on broadcast mode (i.e., repeating the same research findings), and who bring valuable experience and advice specific to your needs. Once you find the right individuals, these are excellent folks to stay close to and speak with regularly as on-demand advisors.
Develop more allies in the C-Suite
Get to know more of your peers in the C-Suite on a personal and professional level. While the usual advice about “getting a seat at the table” or achieving “business-IT alignment” is still important (though often lacking substance), the goal here is to build political allies so that regardless of the company climate you’ll be able to withstand various headwinds, whether political, economic, societal, or otherwise. If you’re leading digital transformation or innovation efforts, this can be doubly important since these areas require the most teamwork, cooperation, and collaboration. Understand your peers’ goals and help them be successful in 2022.
Build your financial expertise
This year, aim to be as knowledgeable and articulate about your organization’s finances as the CEO, or even the CFO to some extent, when they address the workforce on the latest quarterly earnings and company trajectory. Sharing this kind of information with your staff shows them the big picture of where the organization is headed and how their contributions are supporting growth objectives. Having this financial understanding can also help down the road should you pursue other senior-level positions. A good way to start is to have these conversations with C-suite peers and then share details when and where appropriate with staff. When discussing with staff, leave plenty of time for Q&A and be sure to tie the discussion back to IT’s contribution.
Partner more closely with HR
If you’ve been in the CIO role for a number of years, partner more closely with HR to understand the new generation of candidates coming into the marketplace and their wants and needs. You can also educate HR on the kinds of candidates you’re looking for and your expectations. Be deliberately inclusive in terms of all forms of diversity, including neurodiversity. In 2022, re-assess your typical hiring process and how you make decisions. While techniques such as the “bar-raiser” are often highly touted (i.e., one individual who has the final say during the interview process), in practice this can be a disaster and simply be an enabler of mediocrity. Pick an approach that works for your team and department and collaborate with HR as needed to get the candidates you know will be able to perform the job function and offer a unique perspective.
Build your marketing savvy
Work closely with the marketing team to not only equip them with the tools they need but to become a digital evangelist for them as well as for your own organization. Think about which IT teams you might like to submit for various innovation awards this year and set some targets for the end of the year. If you’re a tech company, work with marketing to show that you “eat your own dog food” and showcase IT case studies externally. Partner with marketing to ensure your internal presentations are just as professionally produced as your external ones. Become marketing’s poster child for collaboration.
While we all spend time on LinkedIn and other professional networking sites, it’s important to look beyond the usual suspects and participate in more specialized industry associations or specialist communities. In the UK, for example, the British Computer Society is one of the go-to professional bodies. Specialist communities come in a variety of shapes and sizes such as industry associations and communities, expert and advisory networks, innovation networks, thought leadership communities, influencer marketplaces, and so on. Look for opportunities to diversify your knowledge by joining an association or community in another country or in a related industry in addition to your usual groups.
Build your personal brand
To build your personal brand in 2022, determine your personal narrative and the kinds of thought leadership topics you’d like to be known for. If you’ve been speaking about digital transformation and innovation, what would you like to bring to the conversation this year? Next, determine suitable goals related to your personas such as author, influencer, and speaker. What articles would you like to publish and in which outlets? How many followers would you like to reach? How many public speaking engagements or media interviews? Where will you syndicate your content? The Thinkers360 B2B Thought Leadership Outlook Study [Disclaimer: I am the founder of Thinkers360, a marketplace for thought leaders and influencers] found that specialist communities were the first choice for readers to access thought leadership content (ahead of social media) and the second choice for thought leaders and influencers to disseminate their content (after social media). Be sure to include specialist communities in your plans so you can cut through the noise and be heard.