About Arun Manansingh

A senior IT executive with over 12 years of experience in financial services and international banking. Now an avid gardener, golfer, blogger and Twitterer. Trying to communicate and network to the world via my blog.

A CIO’s Christmas List

aciosvoice.jpg2014 has been a great year. Things are looking better. Hopefully the momentum will carry into 2015.

I have tried to be really good by being the best CIO I can. So Santa, this year, I would like the following:

  • Apple iPhone 6 plus. I have decided bigger is better but I haven’t figured out how to carry it.
  • A development team that can hit the ground running and fix code quickly.
  • An approved IT budget where I don’t have to make drastic cuts and figure out how to do more with so much less.
  • A migration plan to get legacy applications into the cloud.
  • Not to be hacked by foreign governments.
  • One of those toy helicopters. I think your elves are messing with us. I have yet to fly one of those straight and have it last longer than 3 days without breaking it.
  • A new set of golf clubs. It won’t help my game in the least but I will look cool on the greens.

Thanks Santa and Merry Christmas.

P.S. I left cookies and milk for you in our virtual environment. Please help yourself and ask your reindeer to pick up after themselves in the datacenter.

What It Means To Be A Leader — EXECUTIVE CORE QUALIFICATIONS

Leadership and TeamworkA basic requirement for entry into senior roles within the Federal Government you must provide evidence of progressively responsible leadership experience that is indicative of senior executive level management capability. The information below was taken from the USAJobs.gov website. Every leader, whether or not they are looking for a job in government should be able to answer these questions. It should also be used to rate a CIOs performance.

ECQ #1 – LEADING CHANGE:  This core qualification involves the ability to bring about strategic change, both within and outside the organization, to meet organizational goals. Inherent to this ECQ is the ability to establish an organizational vision and to implement it in a continuously changing environment.

Leadership Competencies:

1. Creativity and Innovation.  Develops new insights into situations; questions conventional approaches; encourages new ideas and innovations; designs and implements new or cutting edge programs/processes.

2. External Awareness.  Understands and keeps up-to-date on local, national, and international policies and trends that affect the organization and shape stakeholders’ views; is aware of the organization’s impact on the external environment.

3. Flexibility.  Is open to change and new information; rapidly adapts to new information, changing conditions, or unexpected obstacles.

4. Resilience.  Deals effectively with pressure; remains optimistic and persistent, even under adversity. Recovers quickly from setbacks.

5. Strategic Thinking.  Formulates objectives and priorities, and implements plans consistent with the long-term interests of the organization in a global environment. Capitalizes on opportunities and manages risks.

6. Vision.  Takes a long-term view and builds a shared vision with others; acts as a catalyst for organizational change. Influences others to translate vision into action.

ECQ #2 – LEADING PEOPLE: This core qualification involves the ability to lead people toward meeting the organization’s vision, mission, and goals. Inherent to this ECQ is the ability to provide an inclusive workplace that fosters the development of others, facilitates cooperation and teamwork, and supports constructive resolution of conflicts.

Leadership Competencies:

1. Conflict Management.  Encourages creative tension and differences of opinions. Anticipates and takes steps to prevent counter-productive confrontations. Manages and resolves conflicts and disagreements in a constructive manner.

2. Leveraging Diversity.  Fosters an inclusive workplace where diversity and individual differences are valued and leveraged to achieve the vision and mission of the organization.

3. Developing Others.  Develops the ability of others to perform and contribute to the organization by providing ongoing feedback and by providing opportunities to learn through formal and informal methods.

4. Team Building.  Inspires and fosters team commitment, spirit, pride, and trust. Facilitates cooperation and motivates team members to accomplish group goals.

ECQ #3 – RESULTS DRIVEN: This core qualification involves the ability to meet organizational goals and customer expectations. Inherent to this ECQ is the ability to make decisions that produce high-quality results by applying technical knowledge, analyzing problems, and calculating risks.

Leadership Competencies:

1. Accountability.  Holds self and others accountable for measurable high-quality, timely, and cost-effective results. Determines objectives, sets priorities, and delegates work. Accepts responsibility for mistakes. Complies with established control systems and rules.

2. Customer Service.  Anticipates and meets the needs of both internal and external customers. Delivers high-quality products and services; is committed to continuous improvement.

3. Decisiveness.  Makes well-informed, effective, and timely decisions, even when data are limited or solutions produce unpleasant consequences; perceives the impact and implications of decisions.

4. Entrepreneurship.  Positions the organization for future success by identifying new opportunities; builds the organization by developing or improving products or services. Takes calculated risks to accomplish organizational objectives.

5. Problem Solving.  Identifies and analyzes problems; weighs relevance and accuracy of information; generates and evaluates alternative solutions; makes recommendations.

6. Technical Credibility.  Understands/appropriately applies principles, procedures, requirements, regulations and policies related to specialized expertise.

ECQ #4 – BUSINESS ACUMEN: This core qualification involves the ability to manage human, financial, and information resources strategically.

Leadership Competencies:

1. Financial Management.  Understands the organization’s financial processes. Prepares, justifies, and administers the program budget. Oversees procurement and contracting to achieve desired results. Monitors expenditures and uses cost-benefit thinking to set priorities.

2. Human Capital Management.  Builds and manages workforce based on organizational goals, budget considerations, and staffing needs. Ensures that employees are appropriately recruited, selected, appraised, and rewarded; takes action to address performance problems. Manages a multi-sector workforce and a variety of work situations.

3. Technology Management.  Keeps up-to-date on technological developments. Makes effective use of technology to achieve results. Ensures access to and security of technology systems.

ECQ #5 – BUILDING COALITIONS: This core qualification involves the ability to build coalitions internally and with other Federal agencies, State and local governments, nonprofit and private sector organizations, foreign governments, or international organizations to achieve common goals.

Leadership Competencies:

1. Partnering.  Develops networks and builds alliances; collaborates across boundaries to build strategic relationships and achieve common goals.

2. Political Savvy.  Identifies the internal and external politics that impact the work of the organization. Perceives organizational and political reality and acts accordingly.

3. Influencing/Negotiating.  Persuades others; builds consensus through give and take; gains cooperation from others to obtain inform

The Unprofessionals

corporate boardroomThe last few months I have been interviewing with firms for the top IT spot. It has been difficult. I have come across several organizations with an interview process that is very unprofessional. I am not sure that this happens to other C level executives or just to CIOs. I would be interested in hearing how other executives are interviewed.

1. A small non-profit educational firm that specializes in charter schools wanted a VP of technology. There top spot, which is a new role as are other roles in the organization. They put the req online and I answer with my cover letter and resume. I get a first phone screen followed by a request to develop a one-year project plan with associated budgets and milestones. This was an odd request since I had very little insight into the process or applications. I requested an application list to begin research and got a fragmented list of software.

Not being one to let things go I spend several days researching what I could and developing a project plan. A plan I was proud of based on what little information I had. I had a follow-up phone interview to present my plan and answer questions. To my surprise I was able to answer questions and make it to another phone interview.

During this interview they gave me a hypothetical scenario. It felt like the Kobayashi Maru scenario. I was successful in swaging my way through. Next came 6 other interviews to discuss my background further. At this stage I was becoming pretty tired. This was followed by more phone interviews with junior IT staff and a technology consultant. I personally don’t like firms that have junior staff interview senior staff. Does this happen to the CEO or CFO? I doubt it.

Long story short. After running the gambit of multiple interviews and face-to-face meetings, with project plans and the Kobayashi Maru addressed I was eliminated because “I was unable to make a decision.” Talk about IRONY!!! I fell on the floor with this response. As a professional I thank them and wished them best on their search. Part of me was thankful I was eliminated. How would I be able to move forward in an organization that was required to have total consensus to have progress?

2. A small security firm in New Mexico gives me the call because they wanted a new CIO to help take the organization in new directions. Again I go through multiple phone interviews. Nothing was discussed about compensation, which I thought was strange after the third phone interview. Next came the call to fly to New Mexico for face-to-face. Shortly thereafter I get an email that the CEO will not be interviewing with me-Red flag #2. I get to New Mexico and arrive at a dusty little compound filled with trailers that they called their global corporate office. I sit through 4 hours of meetings discussing my background and why I want the job. At this stage I didn’t want the role due to the environment I would be working in. Let’s just say it was rural and unsophisticated. I started to ask questions from those interviewing about the mission, vision, brand and direction the company was moving in. The response I got was “it is still being developed”- Red Flag #3. I started to dig deeper about metrics and processes and got the same answer. So this was a firm that wanted a CIO but did not have a foundation to build off. I also discovered that they were loosing contract work due to the lack of technology experience. I walked out of the location quickly and jumped on the plane, thankfully to never see that company again.

3. A small nonprofit in Connecticut wanted a new Director. There old director was not cutting it and moved on. So they thought this was a good time to bring in a new person with new ideas. I go through the standard phone screen and found the role to be interesting. I go through other phone screens and eventually go for a face-to-face. The role was interesting even though it was less salary. But it seemed challenging and I was interested in pursuing. I had a great phone conversation with the senior director about the future of the organization. I saw the future and she was able to articulate the need for technology. I sent my thank you followup up email, followed by a phone call. No response to either. I sent a followed up email again. Again radio silence. I don’t mind if they reject me, just have the professionalism to say so. Considering I made the effort to travel and interview.

I am disappointed in organizations that treat potential candidates in such a way. Then they wonder why they are not attracting “great people”. Do other executives have similar experiences?

From the Other Side of the Table — CIO Questions to Potential Employers

meetingsSitting on the opposite end on the board room table, CIOs need to understand the type of organization they will be joining. Having been on the other end several times, it is important to get a sense that you will be valuable as a CIO and most importantly have job satisfaction. Below are a few questions I think can help.

  • What is your company’s mission and vision? What steps are you taking to accomplish them?
  • Can you explain your company’s brand and how it has evolved?
  • Can you describe your company’s growth (or lack there of) in terms of revenue and hiring over the last 5-10 years?
  • What do you think distinguishes this company from its competitors, both from a public and employee perspective? How is technology used by your competitors? How is a CIO role used by your competitors?
  • Can you explain your company’s structure and how a CIO role will fit in?
  • How do you see the CIO role contributing to the success of the organization?
  • Is this a new CIO position, or did someone leave? If someone left, why did they leave? If this is a new position why are you looking for a CIO now?
  • How would you describe the company’s culture and leadership philosophy and style? Could you describe the type of employee who fits well with it?
  • What are some of the technical problems facing your staff, and how to do you see the CIO role solving it?
  • How is the technology department perceived today? What past steps have been taken to correct this perception? What steps were successful or not?
  • What steps have the company done recently to show how it values its technology?
  • How does management view the CIO role and the importance of the IT department?
  • What is the company’s plan for the next five plus years, and how does the IT department fit into these plans?
  • How do other executives view IT?  As a Business Peer/Game changer or Service Provider/Cost Center?
  • How have various types of decisions been made (i.e. M&A, process changes, layoffs, loss of business, risks, new business)?
  • How will my leadership responsibilities and performance be measured? By whom? How often?
  • What would you say are the five most important skills/traits needed to excel in this position?
  • What particular achievements would equate to success in this role? What would success look like?
  • What challenges will this role face? What advice will you give to succeed?
  • Are you most interested in a candidate who works independently, on a team, cross-functionally, or through a combination of them all?
  • What is your ideal communication style? Do you meet regularly with your team, rely heavily on e-mail, use status reports or work primarily through other means?
  • How much guidance or assistance is made available to employees in developing career goals?
  • What resources will be available to the CIO to ensure success?
  • How do you see me as a candidate for the job in comparison with an ideal candidate?
  • Do you have any concerns about me or about my qualifications that may prevent you from selecting me for the role?

4 Ways to Overcome Obstacles and Rethink the CIO Role

4 Ways to Overcome Obstacles and Rethink the CIO Role – See more at: http://visual.ly/4-ways-overcome-obstacles-and-rethink-cio-role#sthash.sPKvjtrD.dpuf
4 Ways to Overcome Obstacles and Rethink the CIO Role

Explore more visuals like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

The Next Inflection Point in Business Analytics By: Gili Keshet-Aspitz, Verix

Big Data is the latest tech jargon to cause grief in the industry. As CIOs we are often charged with explaining it and implementing it. Far too often Big Data is baffling and often misused in business.

Gili Keshet-Aspitz has over 20 years of experience providing counsel to various startups and high tech leaders in marketing, strategic planning and management.  She has written a wonderful article on business analytics. Please see below.

The Next Inflection Point in Business Analytics

By: Gili Keshet-Aspitz, Verix

Big Data is a big name, all too often baffling and misused, yet we can not ignore the fact that in recent years, business users are flooded with available data – more varied and more complex than ever before. This data incorporates a wealth of valuable business information, some obvious and some hidden in various inter-dependencies. Traditional analytical tools, from Data Mining, to Data Visualization, slice and dice this data to provide all sorts of reports. However, as fast and graphically appealing these reports have become, we see a growing chasm between the needs of business users, and the value delivered by these tools.

As a result of this ever-widening gap, only a fraction of potential business intelligence users in the enterprise, actually utilize BI solutions. Whether regarded too complex to use, or too vain to trust, the majority of would-be consumers for valuable business information, opt to stay away and leave it to “the experts”, the analysts. This dependency on analysts creates a taxing bottleneck that raises a key question in today’s business intelligence market: How could we connect more business users to the information cycle in a cost effective manner? In other words, how can we allow business users to benefit from valuable available data, by making it more accessible to the masses?

So what’s missing in today’s analytical tools?

Traditional BI tools provide a broad, high level view of the business. The better ones, allow all sorts of drilling-in to create an impressive set of reports, presented graphically with colorful charts, tables, and maps. Alas, what these tools are missing, is focus. Many users can’t see the forest for the trees and definitely cannot tell where are the highest priority issues, relevant for every user in the organization.

A new wave of narrowly focused tools, tried to address this excess of irrelevant information. These tools provide a restricted view, focusing on a single area of interest. Concentrating on a specific field, insights generated by these tools are more actionable, though lack context and perspective as they view only a narrow sliver of the business.

Both approaches require professional analysts to compile the information into operational insights before they can actually serve business decision makers in any useful manner. With traditional BI tools, analysts ought to provide the focus. With the narrowly focused tools, analysts ought to provide the context. On their own, both approaches create too vague a picture to rely upon. This dependency on analysts creates that troubling bottleneck I mentioned above, and leads to that notoriously low utilization of business intelligence.

The solution lies in looking differently at the way business data is being analyzed. Instead of starting with all available data and slicing and dicing through it to provide a wide variety of views – by timeline, geography, sales, etc., a new method starts with common business processes and addresses typical questions in managing these processes. From the business process’ point of view, relevant information is being gathered and presented in an operational manner – focused and relevant, answering specific business questions and providing all needed context to understand the situation and immediately act upon it.

The novelty of this approach is the amalgamation of business logic with all available data, to automatically narrow it down on a case by case basis and hone in on insights that are relevant for each specific process and every constituent involved in that process.

The next inflection point in business analytics, brings vendors with deep domain expertise and knowledge of a market, to provide process-oriented analytical applications. Applications that on one hand, see” every bit of data that might affect their process, and on the other hand, show business users a narrow view that focuses them on relevant insights for their job and their role in the organization.

The beauty of this approach is the independence it gives business users, to self serve their basic analytical needs. Analysts love this method, as it frees them to focus on complex, unstructured, and innovative tasks, which they rarely had time for when occupied with mundane, repetitive tasks of serving all business users. A win-win situation that significantly boosts performance in organizations.

BIO

Gili Keshet-Aspitz,

Sr. Director of Strategic Marketing

unnamedGili Keshet-Aspitz has more than 20 years of experience providing counsel to various startups and high tech leaders in marketing, strategic planning and management. She has a strong technical background in engineering management, bringing products from concept to market. Gili has spent the last 4 years as the Sr. Director of Strategic Marketing for Verix, the leading business analytics solution for Pharma Commercial Operations.

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