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.

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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

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Barbarians At The Datacenter

The Chief Executive OfficerAs I continue to look for my new CIO role. I am coming across some organizations that are looking outside their respect industry for talent. I recently interviewed with a publishing company who said flat out they want someone not from the publishing world. “Why?” I asked.  They felt that publishing expertise is lagging behind other industries in their use of technology.  I have seen other firms looking for these barbarians to manage their data. It is a refreshing thought.

This is a great opportunity for an organization to bring onboard an innovative disruptor to shake things up. As I have said in the past, change to some extent is good for any organization. As technology marches forward can any CIO say they are an expert in all areas?  Will a CIO have the experience to try new things? To take chances in order to make progress? These are fundamental questions for any CEO or CIO to contemplate.

I strongly believe that a CIO’s developed skills in one industry can be transferred successfully to another industry. Who’s to say that a medical CIO’s experience cannot be used in publishing? Granted there will be a learning curve, but there will be a learning curve for anyone taking on a new leadership role.

It might be scary for some who find comfort in knowing their respective industry inside and out. Myself- I believe that I am that barbarian that looks for new challenges. Working in different industries allows me to increase my marketability and continue to add to my toolbox.

So You Want To Be A CIO?

cropped-aciosvoice.jpg

A friend on mine sent this to me as he looks for a CIO role. Thought it was interesting enough to post:

1.Describe your experience in the development, implementation and administration of operating and capital budgets. Please be specific about your role. Include dollar amounts of budget(s).

2.Describe your experience working with executives and/or boards including preparation and presentations of recommendations regarding programs or policies.

3.What do you consider to be the highlight of your career or the most important contribution that you have made to an organization with which you have been employed?

4.The CIO is occasionally involved in disputes between opposing interest groups. Provide an example of your involvement in negotiation or mediation between such groups. Please describe the process you used and the final outcome.

5.What do you see in the arena of technology in the next 3 – 5 years? How would you prepare a company for the changes?

Mid-Year Staff Performance Reviews

July is our mid-year review. It is an important time to make sure employees are tracking their goals. I am reviewing my staff in 4 areas.

1. Corporate Goals:
Are they meeting the mission of the organization?

2. Departmental Goals:
Are we meeting the goals of the IT departments- KPIs, uptimes, service?

3. Functional Goals 2013:
Areas of individual responsibility. For example – is my helpdesk manager meeting time to resolution or my server manager meeting server uptime? All of which are quantifiable via various metrics.

4. Personal Goals:
This area is general development and fall into the following areas:

Communication
1. Communicates openly & confidently
2. Influences and convinces others in a way that results in acceptance and agreement
3. Shapes Conversations to ensure focus & understanding
4. Speaks frankly, debates at the table, not afterwards
5. Engages in Constructive Confrontation
6. Is a supportive listener
7. Provides clear directions to give desired results

Team Work
1. Works to coordinate efforts/resources within and across teams to deliver on goals
2. Recognizes the importance of teamwork to achieve objectives
3. Brings in ideas, information, suggestions and expertise from others outside the immediate team
4. Proactively supports colleagues and collaborates with the, to help achieve targets
5. Involves the right people (colleagues, vendors, subcontractors,…)to ensure the best decisions are made in a timely manner.
6. Goes out of the way to support other efforts when they notice a gap.

Leadership
1. Carries out systematic and rational analysis to identify the root cause of problems.
2. Provides feedback, input and support to the other parts of the organization for overall organizational improvement
3. Seeks continuous improvement by considering solutions that make novel use of existing ideas, approaches technologies or products.
4. Is able to effectively enlist others in accomplishing a common goal because they want to not because they were told.

Performance review
1. Actively participates in midyear and annual performance reviews with supervisor in a timely manner
2. Ensure development plans are completed as required
3. Identify development needs and take advantage of the training made available
4. Identify processes that could be improved or implemented and head up its development and deployment
5. Actively participate in mentoring of peers outside of core work group