Here is the first in a series of postings on what I usually advise first time/short time CIOs or Senior Level IT Directors as they take on this new role. It is the advice I would have given myself if I could have gone back in time to meet myself. That is, without disrupting the space time continuum. (Thanks Doc. Brown for warning me about this)
So it is Day 1, maybe you’ve just been promoted to CIO. Or perhaps you’ve been hired outright and this is the first time you’ve held this position. What do you do? Well, before you go to your tried and true techniques and habits let me help you out a bit with 3 words of advice.
1. Congratulations – You’ve finally made it to the big seat! Granted, depending on where you are working the big seat may look exactly like every other seat in the place. But pay that no mind. The fact that your company promoted/hired you into that C-Level position shows the amount of trust and need they have of you to perform your best. You are in a unique position because your role intersects, or will soon intersect, with every function of the agency. There is no place within your company that technology cannot play a role. Your hard work, attention to detail, and IT knowledge made you the right person for the job. And you will be able to make a difference in greater ways than you have before.
2. Get Ready to Learn – OK, here comes the hard part. Everything you know, value, and did in your previous IT roles is no longer important. Wait, let me finish! Your previous experience, skills, and roles will help give your new work the proper context and support to meet your objectives. But your new role as CIO will be dependent upon a completely different set of skill sets. You will be expected to be less of the “Tech Guy” and more of a communicator, collaborator, and process improvement expert. These are roles that are typically not given much room to breathe when you wear an IT hat. You’ll have to see your IT team from a different perspective (more on that in another post) and get to know the leaders of your agency’s business and functional units. You need to know their business inside and out in order to maximize your effectiveness as CIO.
3. Change your Paradigms – The IT systems/ processes are not your systems anymore, they are the companies. This is the one I see new CIOs struggle with the most. Back when you were the Director/Manager of IT, you were tasked with doing the impossible. You were responsible for building, maintaining, and streamlining systems. You maintained 99.9% uptime for major enterprise functionalities. And you built all of this by the sweat of your brow, with understaffed teams, and under resourced budgets. Your systems worked and kept the company afloat and prosperous. And with that accomplishment comes some well-deserved pride. “Shouldn’t I be proud of what I did before?”, you may ask. Sure, but that same exact pride will blind you in your new role. As CIO, you manage these systems from your company’s standpoint, no longer your department’s. No one outside of IT either knows or cares how you pulled it off. All they care about are their needs as businesses/functional units. Are these systems truly the best for your company from your new perspective? Your new role may well have you take the proverbial sledgehammer to some of your previous accomplishments for the sake of expediency and efficiency. That can be a very hard thing to do. But as you find yourself owning the processes around technology, you’ll start caring less about the tools of the trade, and more about what they build.
So there you go. Take my words of advice, with a good cup of coffee and you will be fine. Trust me, after all I am you!