Does IT provide office supplies or solutions?
Not too long ago, Computers were simply a tool that you happen to do work on. Computers were something you just ordered for an employee, just like a desk, office chair, or ream of paper. If your company lacks a vision for IT, seeing it as merely another line item a budget, then your CIO needs to have an advocate for a vision of better IT. Your company should demand more than office supplies from IT.
Does the ideal company see IT as a challenge or an opportunity? Is your Information Technology a boon or a burden? Is IT an appreciable asset to your operations? Is the revenue gained from sales seen purely a sales accomplishment? How much of the improvement in sales is a result of a new CRM that IT introduced to the team? Would you only thank legal or compliance for cost saved? Or do you see IT as a present force in the absence of lawsuits or security events? How much did IT contribute to staying compliant with GDPR or HIPPA?
The ideal CIO not only works to keep the company on course with projections but contributes meaningfully to quarterly and year-end reports. A good CIO has a vision for your company.
What is your IT vision?
Many IT leaders may not present a clear vision, may not be good at advocating their vision. CIOs recruited from IT ranks may come into leadership positions without ever displaying a clear vision. A good CIO, as far as many in IT are concerned, often ignores innovation in favor of maintenance. Their innovations are often unreported, for fear of seen as getting in the way of the main business. They make sure IT is a pathway, not a doorway. Often thinking that “No news is good news”.
IT leaders are often managers who focus on cost-saving. They try to keep from making waves. This is often born from limited interactions with executives that only occur when something goes wrong. While this does require valuable skills, their positive contributions can go unnoticed as a result. Internally they may still be considered as an IT innovator by their subordinates.
This can speak to a lack of or inability to articulate a vision. It can also indicate an unhealthy relationship between IT and the rest of the company. A good CIO must work hard to make a vision known. If they are not communicating and fighting for a certain vision, their accomplishments can go unnoticed by executives.
A CIO who can communicate a vision clearly to a receptive CEO can make great improvements. Well communicated and achievable goals for better IT can revitalize the life of a company. They will advocate for technologies and changes to improve efficiency, support strong company culture, save costs, secure data, and improve quality of life for everyone.
A focus on up-time at the cost of improvements won’t show demonstrable improvements. A CIO with a vision adds productivity instead of just persevering. CIOs with vision take this to heart.
How do you balance vision with reality?
No vision exists in a vacuum. No successful IT department operates without a budget or time constraints. Do you want a CIO who only comes to the table with problems? Are they only asking for money to achieve their visions without granting concessions? Do they just add more layers or applications to an already messy ecosystem? Does their vision for IT only result in adding new innovative methods without removing old inefficient ones?
A CIO with good vision doesn’t just look forward. They also look back. They find opportunities to reclaim lost money and productivity to make room for their vision. They respect their budget and the careful culling of the unused and neglected assets and liabilities. They tend their acre carefully and remove old crops to make way for new ones. While it is often impossible, an excellent CIO looks for opportunities for reality to serve their vision. If the goal is to keep your IT ecosystem healthy and simple, here must focus on removing obstacles while building bridges at the same time.
A large focus is for CIOs has been aimed at improving Identity Access Management (IAM) and implementing Single Sign-on technologies (SSO). The focus on this area reduces the number of passwords a user must remember. This improves the lives of IT security by reducing the amount of insecure password post-it notes. On top of that, it reduces the workload forced on the IT. It reduces support tickets and improves the onboarding and offboarding workflows. Solutions like this offer the sort of give-and-take that is championed by good CIOs. A quality IT leader will understand and holds balances their mission with reality. They understand that IT’s vision should be aimed at serving the people who use it. They make changes that only serve IT. At the same time, they balance this with the reality that the biggest threat to your IT ecosystem is those same people. Improved IAM and SSO is often a focus for CIOs who take the relationship between people and IT seriously.
Who should IT report to?
Today, it is not uncommon to see an IT director reporting to the CFO. This can send the message that IT is just another line in the ledger.
IT is something that many CEOs do not understand, delegating it to finance or other departments. The CFOs saddled with this may not understand it any better; the only IT information that they can make sense of is the finances. IT only seems like a money pit in this context; a department that submits expenses without bringing in quantifiable value.
In this sort of IT space, the directors or managers who become leaders may only seem to focus on cost-saving. This CIO may only see their role as keeping the lights on while minimizing the impact to the budget. A good CIO doesn’t limit themselves to that. Even before the health crisis, information technology is now understood to be an investment in a core component of a successful business. While reporting to the CFO seems most common, there is often no standard for this. IT departments often report to CTOs, CISOs, CHRO, and in at least one case a CMO.
While a good CIO, receptive CEO, and healthy company culture can make this a mere technicality, the proper reporting structure can signal a good understanding IT’s role in a company. To some, the obvious choice is to have your CIO report directly to the CEO. A change in reporting structure won’t save your company from an unhealthy relationship with your CIO or IT in general, but it can be a good start to improving it.
How can leadership empower Information Technology?
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, took responsibility and an active interest in every part of Amazon. Always looking for cost-savings and new revenue streams, he found a use for unused server space. In the 2000s, Jeff Bezos saw a future in spare server space. What was considered a mere platform for the retail giant., became a separate business. He empowered people like Andy Jassy to turn a cost-sink component of IT into the cloud revolution. ‘ Source: The Verge. According to CNBC, AWS now accounts for 52% of Amazon’s operating income Andy Jassy, AWS CEO, is now set to become the next CEO of Amazon.
While Information Technology, as it is, may never become a profit-earning venture without a similar transformation, the lesson of AWS is clear. Looking to technology as more than a platform makes great things happen. IT departments across the world are mothballing on-premises servers in favor of cloud services like AWS. IT departments now spend less supporting on-premises servers and spend more time focusing on their other duties.
A CIO who has a good vision to share can make some great changes. Jeff Bezos knew to value technology as more than just a platform. He empowered his team to grow and change into a cornerstone of Amazon’s success. Putting at least an ounce of this sort of confidence can bring great returns and change the way things are done. This is not just the responsibility of an effective CIO, but a duty that company leadership must share. CEOs must work to find someone who can effectively communicate and report their IT successes and failures. They must have a CIO who can provide and receive guidance.
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