Thinking like battle-tested CIOs
Technology management for non-tech executives
The following blog is from TAG CXO friend and veteran CIO Paul Cottey.
You are a new CEO. Congratulations! You have a thousand things on your plate and most of them seem to have some technology component to them. You don’t want to micromanage your CIO, and you do want to give him or her the support necessary to be successful, but you are not an IT person.
So what is a new CEO to do?
I think about it with four T’s: Talent, Team, Time and Treasure.
Talent is your CIO’s talent. Is he/she the best CIO around, or just the best one around? Without turning you into an IT person, you are going to have to make that determination very quickly. Sit down with your CIO. Ask questions about priorities, projects and progress on them. If you get a lot of “I don’t knows,” or a lot of “I’ll have to circle back to you,” or, worst of all, excuses, you may need a new leader or someone to coach the CIO along.
Assuming you come out of the discussions with your CIO feeling comfortable, turn your attention to the IT Team. Do they come to work on time and seem excited about it? Do they make IT contact with you? Do you see them collaborating, in-person or via video, with their peers and their business counterparts? Are there a lot of open positions? If the answers to the first questions are “Yes,” you can feel a little more comfortable. If you have a lot of open positions, you are sooner or later, but probably sooner, going to run into the next problem:
The best team, well-led, can only get done a finite amount of work. A team playing short-handed, may spend so much time reacting to urgent situations that that may never get to the core of the work. If your CIO has open roles, ask why. If it is due to attrition, you, as CEO need to determine if it is industry-based, company-driven, or specific to the IT department. If it is the latter, you may want to consider getting your CIO some help in understanding and reacting to what is going on.
I needed another “T” since “Talent, Team, Time, and Money” didn’t have the same alliterative ring to it, but the point is that a good team, well-led, fully-staffed, still have the need for capital and other seed money. If your CIO needs help making the business case for IT investments, you could pair up the CIO and the CFO, but the CFO probably has other priorities as well. The right answer may be to get someone in who can help develop a template, not just for IT investments, but for all investments, but who can use IT as a proving ground.
It should be exciting for you as a new CEO. With some diligence and some one-on-one time with your CIO you should be able to feel comfortable with the IT organization or you should know the kind of help you need. Good luck!
To build a solid IT program, get back to basics. Paul Theisen, principal and founder of TAG CXO, breaks down the Five Nouns and Four Verbs of building an IT operation, check out the list here: “Back to basics, focus on fundamentals” blog.
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: https://tagcxo.com/.