Facing competing objectives, CIOs share prioritization strategies

Global IT leaders share the most effective ways to balance long-standing and innovative efforts.

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To be in this position, you have to understand your industry and your organization from top to bottom. This in-depth knowledge of not only what the organization communicates, but also first-hand knowledge of what they do, will better position the CIO’s resources and IT’s resources — not only to meet the needs of today, but also to lay out the plans for tomorrow and long term.

social quotes cio Michael Smith IDG

It seems obvious, but many times the challenge is translating what an organization says about how a process works versus seeing how the process works. CIOs becoming more engrained in the operations of the organization can position themselves better to prioritize the issues that exist today while still addressing the pressures of tomorrow.

By approaching things more from an operational perspective (similar to other historical functions such as marketing, product development, consumer/customer/member preferences) across the overall organization, the challenge becomes less daunting. Additionally, it’s more natural to transition from addressing today’s problems to tomorrow’s possibilities.

An example of this I implemented, with support from executive leadership, was to put decision-making back into the hands of the organization. We developed a Technology Steering Committee, a committee comprised of various resources across business functions with IT as an advisor with no voting rights. The organization can prioritize the operational projects requested across the organization. This allows IT to gain direction and holds the organization accountable to decide what is most important against a litany of requests.

Furthermore, in working closely with the senior vice president of sales and marketing, we developed a process where the overall leadership team (director and above) across the AAFP would present their strategic objectives to each other, and this leadership team of peers would be the governing body to prioritize and approve which initiatives to move forward with over the next one to three years. Although both of these processes may have existed in other companies for some time, this was a new concept to the AAFP. By approaching both operational and strategic initiatives/requests in this manner, IT is able to successfully deliver significantly more projects (approximately 30 percent more projects with same number of resources) on an annual basis by being less distracted by various requests submitted to our division.

Being knowledgeable across the operations of an organization can also position CIOs with the needed credibility to communicate what the real challenges and issues are within their companies today. This credibility will open opportunities to be on the front line of driving the strategy — to help the organization be prepared for tomorrow. As CIOs, we sometimes let technology get in the way by looking at technology for technology’s sake, and we lose sight of the business operations. I have seen lots of positive changes across the CIO landscape over the last few years, but there is still much to do for CIOs to drive strategic discussions and decisions.

Most CIOs will never be asked to the table, and if you are waiting for an invitation, you are approaching it incorrectly. Instead you must lead the discussion with value because of your knowledge of overall operations, and then you may be surprised that the table comes to you. When that happens, the ability to manage the priorities of today with the possibilities or pressure of tomorrow may not seem so daunting. CEOs have done this for years, why can’t CIOs?

Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.

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