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?
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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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So You Want To Be A CIO?

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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

Systems Objective Scorecard

During the course of managing an IT department, it is important for IT management to understand areas of risks. There are standard best practices that can be engaged to score your department/organization. Below I have added some as a starting point. These are by no way complete.

 

Management and Planning

Objective 1

The staff responsibilities to information systems environment are assigned to specialized personnel.

Deficiencies in this objective could lead to not knowing and/or too many responsibilities associated to information systems.

 

Objective 2

The strategies about information systems, development plans and budget are mapped according to the strategic goal and company business.

Deficiencies in this objective could lead to the design, purchase/construction, development and system operations not responding to the company and business needs.

 

Objective 3

The selection of a service provider is based on company policies.

Deficiencies in this objective could lead to unsuitable service and inaccurate generated information, vulnerable or lack of integrity.

 

Objective 4

The services levels given by the provider are consistent with the Management expectations.

Deficiencies in this objective could lead to unsuitable service and inaccurate generated information, vulnerable or lack of integrity.

 

Objective 5

Users receive correct formation in use and handling the information systems.

Deficiencies in this objective could lead the incorrect use of information assets, which could cause generated information, were inaccurate, vulnerable or lacks of integrity.

 

Physical and Logical Security

Objective 1

Tools and security techniques are implemented and set up with the purpose of assuring a correct logical techniques level, narrowing the access to the programs, data and other information sources only for authorized persons.

Deficiencies in this objective could lead to unauthorized access and possible exposure, theft, modification, damage or loss of information, due to absence of proper policies, the lack of implementation of these measures on information systems and ignorance on the part of users of safety standards.

 

Objective 2

Tools and security logical techniques are implemented to monitor and control actions on information systems.

Deficiencies in this objective could lead to lack of control made actions on information systems, with possible impact in information confidentially, integrity and availability.

 

Objective 3

Information systems are correctly protected against external attacks and/or malicious codes.

Deficiencies in this objective could lead to unauthorized access and possible exposure, theft, modification, damage or loss of information.

 

Objective 4

Tools and security are implemented to allow access to information systems only to authorized users.

Deficiencies in this objective could lead to unauthorized access and possible exposure, theft, modification, damage or loss of information, due to an incorrect access profiles management.

 

Objective 5

All information resources are fixed by a correct security control, access to critical areas are restricted to authorized personnel.

Deficiencies in this objective could lead to unauthorized access and possible exposure, theft, modification, damage or loss of information, as well as failures or incidences in information systems working and other disaster or extraordinary accidents.

 

Objective 6

All company information resources are identified and managed.

Deficiencies in this objective could lead the incorrect of fraudulent use of equipment and/or data they have, leading in a possible exposure, theft, modification, damage or loss of information.

 

Applications Development and Maintenance

Objective 1

Development or maintenance applications of projects are consistent with the management’s intention.

Deficiencies in this objective could lead to the design, purchase/construction and systems development not responsive to the end users’ needs.

 

Objective 2

Migration process of replaced old applications is carried out accurately and completely.

Deficiencies in this objective could negatively impact information integrity and validity.

 

Infrastructures Operations and Maintenance

Objective 1

Infrastructure development or maintenance projects (database software, networks, equipment) are in consistent with the management’s intentions.

Deficiencies in this objective could lead to changes not responsive to the users’ needs.

 

Objective 2

Technological infrastructure are correctly identified and supported.

Deficiencies in this objective could lead to the changes not responses to the users’ needs, as well as a possible loss of knowledge in information assets.

 

Objective 3

Information systems levels of service providers are consistent with the management’s expectations.

Deficiencies in this objective could lead to the information systems not working correctly, resulting in potential risk to the availability of the information.

 

Objective 4

In disaster case, every essential business processes are recoverable in a defined time.

Deficiencies in this objective could lead to the information integrity and availability, due to incomplete, inaccurate or no recoverable data.

 

Objective 5

The information is kept in accordance to company laws, regulations and politics, could be recoverable, in case.

Deficiencies in this objective could lead to the information integrity and availability, be incomplete, inaccurate or not recoverable data.

Struggles With The Cloud

A few years back we outsourced our server backups to a vendor’s private cloud. It made sense at the time and was cost efficient based on our current data growth. As time marched forward and business grew, so did our data growth. Adding more and more growth capacity to the cloud began to cost us more than if we were to perform our own backup internally via old fashion tape. Yes, I know what you are thinking; tape is archaic and a dying technology. Well it still works as expected in conjunction with our SAN/DR and we have full control.

As we began the process to move away from our cloud solution, we discovered we had a problem. The years of data that were backed up were irretrievable. The amount of data could not be downloaded over the internet without the connection failing and even if we were able to download we estimated two weeks of 24×7 downloads to try and retrieve our data. And the data will be in a jumble without rhyme or reason. What a dilemma! The vendor proved no help. As far as they were concerned if we wanted to move, it was up to us to get our data out. In essence our data was being held hostage.

Our plan (not ideal) was to keep our data in the cloud for the foreseeable future; no additional capacity will be purchased. As equipment begin to be decommissioned, the cloud backups will be deleted in accordance with our tape backup/data retention policies.  This will help us not have to download years and years of data.

Be cautious moving things into a cloud solution. Make sure you understand the risks involved not only in the short-term but also the long very long-term.

ReBoot – The Humbled CIO

I have been remised in writing the last few weeks for a couple of reasons.

First – Work has just gotten really busy and there have been a few issues that required me to put in extra hours. In my old age, those late nights require me to take longer to recuperate.

Second – My weekends have been spent attending weddings, birthday parties, and the occasional family visit requiring me to be an unofficial tour guide.

Third and most importantly – My wife and I are expecting our first child. So we are eagerly preparing our house for our new arrival.

We recently visited the doctor’s office for our first full body ultrasound of our baby. I must admit I was a little intimated by the ultrasound machine. Having worked  in datacenters the size of football fields filled with blade servers, main frames, and generators the size of locomotives, I was humbled by this ultra sound machine the size of a small desk that was able to peer into my wife’s stomach and show us our precious little one in 3D.

It is rare for me to be impressed with technology these days but this did. With a small scanner the technician was able to see every finger and bump in what appeared to me to be a bad black and white picture. But everything was there and measurements and even weighted were calculated.

As I sat in the room and watched it on a 45inch lcd screen next to my wife I couldn’t help but say to myself, “Damn this is really really cool”. I often forget that technology is more than processing and storage. It can be and should be used for things like this. To peer inside and give parents that feeling that everything is going well and to not be afraid of what is about to come.