Thinking like battle-tested CIOs – Technology management for non-tech executives

We can all be captivated by fancy new tools and tricks but often getting back to the basics is the reminder we need to refocus on our core values and principles.

A back-to-basics approach means returning to an organization’s mission, its fundamental principles. Like the four legs of a chair, if an organization isn’t focusing on its foundational principles, the chair will fall.

Leaders who know the basics and operate with them in mind, make decisions with a maturity of thought that brings better outcomes.

So what are the basics of an IT operation?

It starts with the Five Nouns and Four Verbs:


  1. Strategy
  2. Budget
  3. People
  4. Processes
  5. Technology

The five nouns should provide direction and alignment to the organization’s environment and the objectives it serves, while also taking into account the company’s resources and its means and methods to execute the plan.

These five inputs should work toward the following four verbs.


  1. Planning
  2. Building
  3. Supporting
  4. Improving

“If you plan it, you gotta build it, if you build it, you’ve got to support it, if you support it, you’ve got to improve it,” says Paul Theisen, principal and founder of TAG CXO.

These four verbs should be continuously cycling in an organization’s IT operation.

Theisen estimates half of an IT budget is spent on support, another 35 percent goes toward building projects and the smallest percentage is spent on improving those systems. Ideally, an IT budget would be equally divided among the four verbs.

These nouns and verbs are the inputs and activities of an IT system.

A variation of these same principles can be found in the IT Infrastructure Library or ITIL, which describes a framework of best practices for delivering IT services. Check out this article from for more explanation:

IT leaders should know the ins and outs of their organization’s inputs and actions and how the five nouns and four verbs are put into practice.

Mastering these basics leads to maturity.

“Inputs and activities and the ability to manipulate them effectively, is an organization’s service maturity,” Theisen says.

Take, for example, a bank.

The goal of the bank’s IT department might be to attract customers, provide good customer service, manage risk and be compliant with all regulations. The basics of the bank’s IT program would include systems for tellers, ATMS, online banking, transfer platforms and wealth management tools.

The bank’s CIO will want the systems to be capable, durable, predictable and sustainable.

If those goals are achieved, it yields a quality of service, which leads to a positive experience for the customer. It’s efficiency on one side and revenue generation on the other.

To figure out how to get your organization back to basics, reach Theisen or any TAG CXO executive here:

About TAG CXO:

Based in Phoenix, Arizona, TAG CXO is a privately held company, providing Interim and Fractional IT leadership executives, founded in 2019. The company maintains a bench of industry-trained, enterprise-level executives, available on demand to mid-market CEOs. TAG CXO executives help to round out a firm’s leadership team and close the IT talent gap with fully qualified expertise, offering a more affordable, lower-risk option than hiring full-time staff. Learn more at: