Freshman CIO – Transformation in 365 Days

I have reached the end of my one year as a freshman CIO. Having been in IT, managing projects and IT departments for the past 12 years those 3 letters in my title carries the burden of either succeeding or failing miserably. In my case, the last year has been a success.

I was hired to guide my firm through strategic changes. Having the depth of knowledge of working in start-up environments and working through a few M&As, I was able to transform a weak department and set it on a path towards value. This was not easy. The department lacked confidence and direction. I came in with new ideas on how IT should be managed. My philosophy as a CIO is simple. “It’s all about people and processes. Technology is last.”

I had a Two-Phased Plan. I wanted IT to have transparency, accountability and accessibility, I restructured everything we do to align IT with those themes and to deliver a much more customer service-oriented solution.

Such an alignment calls for change, and you cannot make fundamental change without a strategic plan.

With a greater emphasis on IT management I initiated a portfolio-management process. Using my experience working in the financial sector where streamlined IT approaches are common I took each project and developed a cost/benefit analysis showing what the business will gain from these projects. This was a victory. For the first time, the business can see and measure tangible information that IT can and will deliver.

The second phase of the strategic plan was to build a road map for what IT will do over the next year.

Projects focused on strategic and operational initiatives. I had to rebuild my environment and the only way to move forward strategically was to have a stable and scalable operational environment.

In implementing this plan the pace of change was rapid. I set organizational processes, stopped doing some things, got better at others, and started new initiatives. At the end of the day I had to balance business needs with technology needs.

Where Is Your Risk Assessment?

One of the few analyses that are overlooked in most IT departments is a comprehensive risk assessment.

A risk assessment should identify, analyze, and weigh all the potential risks, threats and hazards to a company’s internal and external business environment. 

The process of identifying risks/threats, probability of occurrence, the vulnerability to each risk/threat and the potential impact that could be caused, is necessary to prepare preventative measures and create recovery strategies.  Risk identification provides a number of other advantages to a company including: 

  • Exposes previously overlooked vulnerabilities that need to be addressed by plans and procedures
  • Identifies where preventative measures are lacking or need reevaluation
  • Can point out the importance of contingency planning to get staff and management on board
  • Will assist in documenting interdependencies and point out single points of failures

An effective risk management process is an important component of a company’s MIS department. The principal goal is to protect a company and its ability to perform its mission, not just its IT assets. Therefore, the risk management process should not be treated primarily as a technical function carried out by the IT, but as an essential management function of the organization.

Risk is the net negative impact of the exercise of vulnerability, considering both the probability and the impact of occurrence. Risk management is the process of identifying risk, assessing risk, and taking steps to reduce risk to an acceptable level. This assessment provides a foundation for the development of an effective risk management program, containing both the definitions and the practical guidance necessary for assessing and mitigating risks identified within IT systems. The ultimate goal is to help a company better manage IT-related mission risks.

CIO Blogs for January 2011

Better Communication: Technology Isn’t Always The Best Solution by Mike SchaffnerCIO Blogs

CIO as General Manager? by Mark Brewer

Can a CIO be successful without IT experience? Define your terms! by Peter Kretzman

Four Models for success for the CTO / CIO- CTOVision by Eric Brown

Why CIOs Need Management Power Maps To Get Anything Done by Jim Anderson

How To Cope When The Boss Is A Bully by Andy Blumenthal

CIO Blogs for November 2010

CIO BlogsCreating a vision by Don Lewis

One CIO’s “lessons learned” in managing others by Peter Kretzman

Is Project Management a skill or a technique? by Eric D. Brown

Selfishness and The Paradox of Emotional Intelligence by Andy Blumenthal

IT Staff to End User Ratio

Is there a rule of thumb for the number of IT staff to the number of end users? No.

No two companies are the same. If that were the case there would be a hard and fast rule we all would follow.  So comparing the ratios of man to machine will not determine the correct ratio. IT staffing ratios might come into play in larger companies. Efficiencies of scale coupled with segregation of job responsibilities allow larger companies to trend those ratios to some pretty high numbers. But even in these cases I would be cautious.

Take a step back and ask the following questions:

  • How many systems do you need to manage?
  • How many customized systems do you need to manage?
  • Is your business complex?
  • What is the geographic structure of your business and locations?
  • Do you have a standard operating environment in place?
  • What is the level of your infrastructure (laptops/ pcs/ servers/ printers/ backuptools, connectivity ) etc?
  • What is management’s approach, how much support do they want and in what time frame?
  • How many help desk calls are you receiving?
  • Are the help desk calls emergencies, regular maintenance, user errors?
  • Are help desk calls occurring 24×7?
  • Is there adequate backup to the handle workload when staff are sick, on vacation, etc?

Your answers above will determine the adequate number of IT staff to support your business environment.

CIO Blogs for September 2010

Technology to the rescue! (or not) by Don LewisCIO Blogs

What’s wrong with today’s IT? by Eric D. Brown

Why IT Must Embrace Facebook, Twitter, iPhone by Mike Schaffner

Another variation for the CIO (Chief Imagination Officer) by Oh I See (CIO Inverted)

100 Days as CIO; A Retrospective by Isaac Sacolick

Why Do None Of The Other Kids Want To Play With The CIO? by Jim Anderson

The Orphaned CIO

“The orphaned CIO is a CIO without a leader.”         

Have you been in an organization where they do not know where to place the CIO? Organizationally management does not see the CIO as a leader but just the tech guy managing technology and spending money and all around just a cost center.

The hardest part is reporting to someone that does not see you as part their team and you are left to fend for yourself and your IT department. What is a CIO to do in situations like this?

Some CIOs will call it a day and move on to greener pastures. Others will stay and fight and prove that they are more than the technology they are responsible for. The challenge with this strategy is changing the culture of the organization.

Cultural change comes over time and at great risk. CIOs in these situations must work in small increments to make these changes over very long periods.  Above all they must know which battles to fight and which ones to let go.

It is through this methodology that the CIO will be accepted into the inner sanctum of the executive board room.

CIO Blogs from August 2010

Becoming a CIO – Current Thinking for IT Leaders by Scott Booher   CIO Blogs

Countering a disturbing bandwagon: rich vs. poor IT organizations by Peter Kretzman

The diminishing role of IT and the CIO(?) by Eric D. Brown

Strategic or Operational, the choice is yours! by Oh I See (CIO Inverted)

MIS Analysis Fundametals

The last few weeks I have been developing a roadmap for the remainder of the year. I am addressing issues related to strengthening the operational aspects of MIS and overall positioning the department to be strategic. In my opinion, MIS cannot be strategic with operational issues happening in the background. The departmental focus will be dealing with “putting out fires” and being reactive instead of proactive.

My analysis focuses on specific core weaknesses and how to correct them in an efficient and cost effective manner. I talk about business benefit, operational efficiency improvement, etc. but try not to mention specific products because the bigger and ultimate goal is the benefit to the business and my recommendations just happens to be a tools to help achieve those results.

From my experience, when you bring technology into the discussion people loose sight of the business benefit which is what happens during the discussion with business leaders. An analysis should focused on the business benefits only. A thereby creating a want for the benefits the solutions will deliver.

CIO Blogs from June 2010

CIO BlogsThe 9 Best Project Management Techniques You’re Not Using by Chris Curran        

IT tall tales and why they’re told, or, why I stopped going to conferences by Peter Kretzman

Growing Pains by Don Lewis

First 100 Days as CIO by Isaac Sacolick

CIO Blogs from March 2010

Change Management by Mark Brewer

Licensing Challenges by Mark BrewerCIO Blogs

Yes we can, yes we must: the ongoing case for IT/Business alignment by  Peter Kretzman

Outsourcing–When it works, when it doesn’t by Don Lewis

Is Creativity & Innovation enough? by Eric D. Brown

The VolksPad by Oliver Widder

Taking Control Of Your Technology by Mike Schaffner

What keeps CIOs awake at night by Oh I See (CIO Inverted)