The CIO’s True Life Calling (Chapter 2)

Do you feel sometimes that there’s something you’re missing?  

Do you sometimes wish that you could be doing your true life calling?

Did you know that you’re not alone in such a “dire” situation, many CIO also feels they’re missing their true life calling as a CIO professional? 

“CIOs tend to believe that they are an overhead function, when you believe you’re an overhead function you operate differently than when you perceive yourself as leading a P&L.

As an overhead functional leader, you get too caught up in day-to-day scenarios.” – (Ray Barnard, CIO of Fluor Corporation) 

CIOhave a lot of responsibilities to the point where you miss what you were hired for. The big question now is how do you stay true to your calling as a CIO…?  

Here are some things to consider: 


Deliver Revenue

Much of IT is about day-to-day operations, and it is critical that those operations run well.  

But how do CIOs who have grown up attuned to operational excellence broaden their perspective? 

Look into these possibilities… 

  • If you have CIO relationships, why can’t you turn them into revenue for the company? 
  • Use your knowledge to educate your external customers on what you know. 


Turn your acquaintances, and network into a revenue by sharing your knowledge on the field. 

Let say you have a CRM System service, one or two or a couple from your network (could be not necessarily IT industry) are having troubles with keeping track of their customer/client records.

Sharing what you do with your CRM System services is a valuable knowledge for this network and could drive revenue towards your business in one way and another.  


Next thing you do is 

Structure Your Organization for Strategy 

Tie your budget to the business 

  • Cost structure from an allocation measurement to a recovery measurement. 
  • There should be recoveries that pay you back for all your efforts to sustain your business. 

Carve out your revenue driving teams 

  • Whichever department you have, there are teams that are focused directly on revenue-generating work. 
  • There needs to be some separation between operations and strategic work, this can cause people to be so consumed with the running of the business that they can never focus on the future. 

Have a solid IT roadmap process 

  • When you are not constantly looking for new strategic opportunities, you have the tendency to get stagnant. 
  • Try to discover whether there is a disconnect between the projects on the roadmap and what the business wanted to fund. 


Manage your own expectations 

Remember that so much of IT is operational, that attempting to move the dial to strategy too quickly will only end in heartbreak. 

Understand that operational excellence is strategic 

  • It is important that you aim and achieve balance between operations & strategies. 
  • You need to strategically plan your operational process and be flexible enough to adapt changes as you move along. 
  • Adjust your budget or funding to the most relevant element of your operations. 


Get smart before you get strategic 

  • Take note that If you don’t have industry experience, you have to pay your dues before you can make a strategic contribution, you have to show that you really understand the business environment before you can expect people to give credence to your ideas. 
  • You need to understand the company legacy—the evolution of our products, what’s worked in the past, the history of customer satisfaction, to be able to offer ideas about the future. 


Assess your own skills 

  • Strategy work relies on certain structures and models, it requires adequate training. 
  • Know your strengths and weaknesses and how can these be used to bring innovation into your organization.  


Be sure the company is ready for IT strategy 

  • One challenge CIOs face is that the company perceives IT as a support function and is incapable of changing that bias. 
  • If the operational perception is old enough or deep enough, change may be too much of an uphill battle. 
  • Ask some questions and find out about the company’s view of the CIO role. 
  • Be careful of scenarios where the company has a big SAP problem that they cannot seem to solve. That’s the sign of a company that looks at their CIO as overhead. 
  • Discussions about decisions on whether to structure the company on a regional or enterprise model is a sign that your company is “IT Strategy Ready”.  


Now let us 

Get Good at the Core; Get Rid of the Context (A Turnaround Story) 

Most CIOs will find themselves in this kind of situation: a legacy of years of underinvestment in IT and poorly integrated applications. 

We live in a society where the dominant ideology is that we’re better off in the present than we were in the past. 

Having history as a guide, you can correct the sins of IT underinvestment and leave your organization in better shape than you found it. 

But the truth is the strategic demands on CIOs are much greater than they used to be, and CIOs need to find better, cheaper ways to run IT operations. 

CIOs now must manage things that are contextual or commodity in nature so that there can be focus on those things that are critical core competenciesthat’s what differentiates strategic from nonstrategic IT organizations. 

As a leader of innovation, it is important to figure out what activities you’re good at and what activities someone else can manage for you. 

You can better do this through the following: 

Start the turnaround during your interview 

Put your success criteria on the table from the very start so everyone can see the direction.  

Ron Keifer, CIO at Applied Materials did the following steps, a good example of putting your success criteria from the very start: 

  • direct access to the CEO, it would also send a clear message to the organization that IT was changing its status at the company.
  • the CIO would be a peer to the other executives on the senior leadership team. This offers complete freedom to build the relationships necessary for a successful transformation.
  • consolidate all of IT within the company very rapidly.
  • form the new leadership team within IT. 


Develop your plan before Day One 

Put a strategy in place before you even start the job. 

Develop a plan to identify those high-touch, high-visibility, quick wins in the organization: 

First 30 days: focused on building key relationships: 

Plan should include individual strategies for each senior executive, with clear deliverables, along with an assessment of the IT organization. 


60-day planidentified the key strategic elements  

These are necessary to achieve the vision, quick wins, like single sign-on, remote access, spam management, and automated e-mail management. 


90-day planis all about execution. 

staffing plans, process documents, team assignments, and project schedules. 


Identify what is context and outsource it 

  • Establish an enterprise-managed services model. 
  • By outsourcing the context, Kifer & his was able to focus his team on their core competencies. 



Don’t make assumptions about context 

  • Know what context is and what is the core of the company. 
  • Remember that one organization’s context is another organization’s core. 
  • Develop IT’s core competencies, the most important of which were the three Ps (project, program, and portfolio management) and vendor management. 


Improve all three “Ps” at the same time 

  • You may have operations down, and you’ve gotten your team to think strategically, but without solid execution, all of the good strategy in the world won’t earn you the credibility to contribute at the strategic level. 
  • It is in the implementation or execution arm of the organization where things tend to break down. 
  • Some CIOs make the mistake of treating the three Ps (project, program, and portfolio management) as an evolution. 
  • The reality, however, is that until the organization is managing at each of these three distinct levels simultaneously, they are at risk of failing to improve anything at all. 
  • You need a decent working model for all three and then mature them together. 


Make vendor management a core competency  

  • You should have knowledge about vendor terms and conditions.  
  • Know how to give right emphasis on cost versus performance to your vendors. 
  • Build a new vendor management office with experienced and certified professionals who did nothing but manage contracts and vendor relationships. 
  • Avoid the best-in-breed model. That model, where organizations use a different vendor for nearly every function. Idoesn’t give you the ability to influence your vendors.  
  • Resist the master-slave relationship with your vendors where you are so adept at squeezing them for bargain basement prices that they no longer value the relationship. 
  • Do not lose sight of the strategic nature of the relationship. 



Prove it in IT and sell it to the enterprise 

  • Prove that your solution is more than just an IT solution, showing that it has enterprise-wide impact 
  • Show to the organization that your solutions and plans is a total quality and continuous improvement initiative.  
  • Try to demonstrate results in IT and then introduce the models across the enterprise. 




The key to solving the Operations versus Strategy Paradox is building operational excellence into your organization and getting out of the business of fighting fires.  

    1. Get rid of the context
      Build a good vendor management organization.

      02. Get closer to the revenue.
      Do something to bring in new money.

      03. Embed IT in your corporate strategy group.
      Either you or someone on your team needs to be directly involved in corporate strategy and a solid presence at those strategy meetings.

      04. Don’t stop with IT.
      IT organizations excel at project management, M&A methodologies, strategic planning, leadership development, and a host of other broadly applicable disciplines. You have broken the CIO Paradox when other business functions have adopted the models you developed in IT. 

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