Guest blog by Tom Koulopoulos, founder and CEO of Delphi Group and author of Cloud Surfing and eight other books on business, innovation and technology.
While we can talk at length about the prospects of IT, there is no doubt that we all need to do what we can to keep the best and brightest in our existing IT organizations. If you’ve been in IT for any appreciable amount of time, you know that there are things that make it a special and unique collection of people and talent. IT is a melting pot with a diverse set of backgrounds and skills compared to other parts of the organization. For many of us, that is the attraction of IT. Keeping the best and the brightest is a matter of playing to that attraction by putting in place programs that will continue to fuel the reasons we chose IT to begin with.
#10 – Train
IT professionals are in a constant battle to keep up with the changing landscape of their industry. There are few professions so relentless in their rate of change. It makes sense that you would want to keep these folks relevant, right? Yet some companies actually feel that training their IT professionals can be a risk since it gives them skills that may not be immediately relevant! That’s not the best motivator for folks who know how quickly they can become obsolete!
#9 – Cross-Skill
IT professionals are only as valuable as their understanding of the problems they are solving. They are also among the most eager to learn new skills. Taking IT professionals out of IT and putting them into the business to help them understand and learn about the context of their users is a powerful motivator. The better they understand this, the more successful and satisfied they will be. For Intel, we developed a course to teach all of its global IT staff how to become world-class trainers and facilitators on the topic of innovation. Yes, Intel -- one the worlds most innovative companies took the time and made the investment to teach its technology team the broader skills they need to enable the business.
In times of heightened uncertainty, we all want to be part of the conversation. Make sure you keep the challenges and opportunities as transparent as possible. Periodic meetings that address the changing landscape of IT, not just from your firm’s point of view, but from an industry perspective can help give people an informed sense for what the real risks and opportunities are. I’ve yet to find a professional who does not feel better about his or her prospects when they are able to participate in the process of defining the organization.
#7 – Recognize Success
This one is a no-brainer, which is why I’m always amazed when it’s not being done. I’m not talking just about recognition in the annual employee review, but in company forums. One large organization I worked with awarded the status of “Fellow” to its lead IT performers. The award came with a gold plated medallion, a framed certificate and a lapel pin. You may think that all of this is a bit hokey. You couldn’t be more wrong. Every person who was designated as a fellow had that medallion and certificate proudly displayed not only at this organization but every subsequent firm they worked for! Oh yes, and those lapel pins, they were worn proudly enough to put a Free Mason to shame! Despite this I still run into leaders who see recognition as being purely a matter of remuneration. After 30 years of leading organizations, I can tell you with no equivocation that money is one small part, many times the smallest part, of recognition.
#6 – Advertise Success
OK, so you’ve recognized your IT superstars. But to whom have you advertised this recognition? More than likely you’ve broadcast it only to IT. What about the rest of the organization? These folks aren’t IT superstars, they are firm superstars, industry superstars. Get the message? Recognition is as valuable as the size of the community who knows about it. Send a company-wide announcement; send out a press release, post the award in the person’s local neighborhood newspaper. In short, do whatever you can to make a big deal about their achievements, because it is a big deal.
#5 – Develop Team-based Core Competencies
IT has an historic reputation of being a bunch of geeks locked up in a closet with a crack under the door high enough slip an occasional pizza under. That’s exactly the sort of IT that’s moving to the Cloud. The IT that’s relevant and necessary to your firm is team‐based IT. These are IT professionals who understand the process of teamwork, are adept at meetings, group interactions, and bridging the divides of an organization. Keep in mind that of all the functions in an organization, IT is the one that is likely to cross the most silos.
#4 – Develop Sourcing Competency
IT will increasingly need to manage a portfolio of service providers who span the globe. In this sort of environment IT professionals need to master a set of skills that expand far beyond technology. For example, trying to manage a global workforce without training in cultural sensitivity is a disaster waiting to happen. If you do not equip your people with these sorts of skills, they will spend most of their time frustrated as the complexity of IT sourcing increases.
#3 – Create Free Space
IT professionals are thinkers and problem solvers. Everyone in IT has experienced the addictive euphoria of problem solving. The vast majority of us eventually grow out of that pure problem-solving chapter of our career and fondly look back on it. As our careers progress, we move on to bigger, more complex problems. But what we often do not realize is that, as the problems grow, so too must the time we have to unplug from the problems. This sort of free space to think is severely lacking in most IT organizations. Yet many of the most successful innovators, from 3M to Google, give their people time away from their day-to-day tasks to work on projects that are personally gratifying.
#2 – Challenge
The late Peter Drucker once told me that the best way he knew to motivate knowledge workers was to challenge them. In the two decades since he told me that, I’ve tested it on thousands of people. Guess what? He was spot on. The best and the brightest are always driven by the challenge, and those who are not your best - but who aspire to be - will follow the lead.
#1 – Lead
There is no denying that IT is changing and in many cases it is being outright challenged as an unnecessary internal cost. This sort of uncertainty creates high levels of stress. If you cannot lead IT to a future state in a way that acknowledges and clearly addresses the root causes of this stress, and do so transparently and authentically you will lose your best people.
At the end of the day we all want to choose to follow a leader who deserves our loyalty. Leadership’s role at times like this is to provide a pathway from the present into the future, which only becomes obvious in retrospect, and yet inspires confidence, trust and loyalty in the present. I recall very vividly one of the most profound examples of this ideal in my own experience.
In 2004 a company that I founded was acquired by Perot Systems (now Dell). Shortly after the acquisition I visited India as part of the Perot Executive team to meet with all of the employees of an Indian subsidiary who had joined the company. The plan was to present the leadership to the Indian employees and to let them ask questions. Something, which at that time, was considered a big deal since it illustrated the transparency and access that leadership would bring to the Indian operation.
At one of the first Q&A sessions a junior Indian associate asked a question that came directly out of left field. “What is the difference between a leader and a manager?” There were about 300 associates in the audience and they all went silent. The five of us on the leadership team looked at each other for a moment. I leaned over to the microphone and told the associate what a great question he had asked, mostly to buy some time.
Then it occurred to me that I had once asked Peter Drucker the same question. His answer, which I shared as Drucker’s point of view, was that a manager is somebody you have to follow; whereas a leader is somebody you choose to follow. There was another moment of silence and suddenly all 300 associates rose to their feet in applause. In that moment I realized that the great power of a leader came not from his or her vision but rather from the power of those who chose to follow.
Guest blog by Patty Azzarello. You can find Patty at www.AzzarelloGroup.com, follow her on twitter or facebook, or read her book RISE: 3 Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader, AND Liking Your Life.
What is a good succession plan?
I find it interesting that most companies do one of two extremes when it comes to succession planning:
1. Nothing at all, or
2. A very cumbersome process with lots of documents and checkpoints for multiple candidates which never amounts to anything.
Get someone ready
As a CIO, think about succession planning in its core form: How do you get someone (specific), ready to take your (specific) job? And how do your executives get someone specific ready to take theirs?
The benefits of this approach are numerous. If you do this, you score many wins:
- The whole organization gets more capable even if there is no succession
- You have a real and meaningful way of motivating your top performers
- Other people see you delegating some power, so they trust you more
- You get to hand off some hard work that you don’t have to do personally!
Succession planning is all about delegating. As a leader, you need to make sure you have someone on your team that can step up. Once you do, you need to be prepared to delegate big, hairy, strategic stuff--not just superficial, well contained, safe stuff.
“You need to give them opportunities to practice the ugly, mind-numbing, heavily matrixed, controversial, boring, unsupported, failing, no-win kind of work you deal with every day when you wake up.”
Three key steps to getting a real succession plan in place
1. Let them practice your work
The first part of someone learning your job, is about the work. You need to give them opportunities to practice working at your level.
A lot of times we think the way to motivate our top performers is to have them work on the most fun or interesting projects. That works to a point, but it does not do anything to help get someone ready for your job.
Face it, how much fun work do YOU get to do?
You need to give them opportunities to practice the ugly, mind-numbing, heavily matrixed, controversial, boring, unsupported, failing, no-win kind of work you deal with every day when you wake up.
What is the hardest and most distasteful thing you own?
That’s what you give your top performer. You give them the benefit of seeing what it is really like in your shoes.
They get to suffer like you do. But they get to work on big stuff. They get access to your network and stakeholders. They have the chance to do something creative and heroic to get this done.
What may be drudgery for you, can be really motivating for someone who gets to step up. OK, you should probably give them a more pleasant task too, while you are at it…
But don’t shy away from giving smart people hard work.
And don’t feel guilty about it. I often felt guilty delegating ugly stuff. But then I realized that this was better for everybody. And that people appreciate it. They don’t resent it because you are trusting them with a bigger job — so I got over it.
2. Let them practice your relationships
The next part of getting someone ready for your job is to make sure they are practiced and comfortable with the social requirements at the next level.
If they are stepping up, they need to fit in socially too.
They need to be someone that your peers want to include personally. They can’t stand out like a sore thumb as the junior person in the room, who has no basis for relating to the big execs.
You need to give your top performer a chance to practice at these relationships and executive level communications.
If your succession candidate does not develop personal relationships, and an ability to personally communication with your boss and peers they will never be ready to step into your job. And it won’t matter because they will not be given the chance.
By the way, this is a key reason the spreadsheet version of succession planning does not result in actual placements.
3. Let them practice your decisions
OK. Here is where the rubber meets the road. You need to give someone a chance to practice making the decisions that you make.
If you never delegate important decisions, you are fooling yourself that you are doing succession planning.
How will somebody ever be ready to take over, if you have owned all the decisions along the way?
Think about the next few months of decisions you need to make. Investments, priorities, partnerships, road map and architecture choices, backlog and outsourcing strategies. Give your top performer the task of owning the project AND the making decisions.
Let them feel the pressure of owning the outcome fully. Let them get the experience explaining, defending, and selling their choices. Let them get the experience fixing it if it goes wrong.
Is this scary? Yes.
Might they choose wrong? Yes. Might they choose better than you? Also yes.
The point is, if you never let them own and make key decisions, you are cutting off the single most important training you can give your successor. They will never be ready for your job without owning key decisions.
Patty Azzarello is a best-selling author, speaker and business advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk).
The following is an excerpt from The CIO Paradox: Battling the Contradictions of IT Leadership, by Martha Heller.
[Part 3 of 3]
[Read Part 1: The Bias Against CIOs on Corporate Boards]
[Read Part 2: The Case for CIOs on Corporate Boards]
The economic crisis of the last four years may actually have created an opportunity for CIOs to sit on boards: with risk on everybody’s mind, with boards reevaluating their needs, and with CEOs—the most popular pool of candidates for board positions—in shorter supply, the time may well be ripe for CIOs to ascend to their rightful place at the boardroom table. So, just tear out these few pages, wave them in the face of your nearest board chair, and make your case about why you should be selected to serve. But before you do, let’s talk about some other actions you should probably take to position yourself for board activity.
Leverage your own company’s board
As an executive at Delta and Home Depot, Bob DeRodes spent quite a bit of time with his companies’ boards. “At Delta, I was the CEO of a subsidiary company, and at Home Depot, I was a member of the executive team, and our CEO wanted us to be at all of our board meetings. I found that the experience you gain from watching boards, their chemistry (or lack of chemistry), and how they operate is very valuable,” he says.
DeRodes, a board member at NCR and Veracode, does acknowledge that there is a world of difference between presenting to your own board and sitting on a board as a director. “Going back in my career, I can remember a number of times I was summoned to the board,” he says. “I was whisked in, nervous as hell. Then I’d try to give the best pitch of my life, and get whisked out again.”
“For a CIO to be asked to join a board, they need to be known for work that is broader than the CIO title.”
--Doreen Wright, former CIO, Campbell Soup Company, and board member, Dean Foods and Crocs
The real opportunity is in demonstrating to the board that you are that rare breed of leader with a perfect blend of business acumen, strategic thinking, technology expertise, and executive presence. “This is a chance to build your reputation as an individual who can be trusted with large decisions,” says DeRodes. “It’s a chance to show that you are a creative thinker who can identify and solve large problems, as opposed to somebody who worries about budgets and is a caretaker of an environment. Your chances of making the right impression on the board are diminished if you just come in and say ‘Here’s my budget and I’m hitting it.’ ”
Most board members are well connected and know which boards are looking for technology expertise. “If they can tell their networks, ‘I know the CIO at the company where I’m on the board. He or she comes in and briefs us every quarter and is really impressive and knows the industry really well,’ that would be a good starting point,” says DeRodes.
While presenting to your own board is not a direct route to your first board appointment (and you’re certainly not going to spend the whole meeting glad-handing and asking for referrals) building credibility and relationships among your own board members will position you well for board work.
Now may be a good time to ask yourself: How good am I at board presentations? Do I wow the board with my knowledge of the business and the impact that IT is having on its growth? If you are not truly capitalizing on the opportunity to impress this influential and captive audience, you might want to hire a coach and master the art of presenting to the board.
Target your vendors
As I mentioned earlier, boards often appoint executives from their biggest partner companies to strengthen an important relationship. Often, many large service organizations have a customer board, and participation there can also offer valuable board experience. “These customer boards have the ear of the CEO,” says DeRodes. “I can tell you that at HP and IBM, the CEOs pay close attention to those boards, and their lieutenants are in almost all of the meetings.”
While customer boards play more of an advisory function than corporate boards, which play a governing function, they give you exposure to people outside your company. And if you can influence the product direction of one of your major vendors, that’s a nice fringe benefit.
Pick up a new title
If a board of directors is going to appoint a CIO, they will be more likely to favor the candidate who has taken on more than IT. This is what I refer to as the “CIO-and phenomenon,” where CIOs are adding SVP of customer care, chief human resources officer, or VP of strategic planning to their titles. Just as Doreen Wright was head of HR for Campbell Soup during part of her CIO tenure, a CIO who takes on more than IT demonstrates a broader set of leadership skills and changes those die-hard perceptions of CIOs as pure techies. “It’s all about the diversity of your work portfolio,” says Wright, who also served as CIO at Nabisco, and currently serves on the boards of Dean Foods and Crocs. “For a CIO to be asked to join a board, they need to be known for work that is broader than the CIO title.” If you Googled Wright during her tenure at Campbell Soup, you would find interviews with her on workforce diversity and leadership development, in addition to articles about her in CIO magazine.
This, of course, puts me in mind of another paradox: As CIO, you need to grasp the big picture and the smallest detail, you need to manage a team of techies and teach them to “talk business,” you need to balance cost containment and innovation, and you need an intimate view of every single process in your business. The job is hard and, it seems, beyond the grasp of most mere mortals. The Paradox? As tough as the CIO role is, it is not enough simply to master it. If you want to move forward in your career, you should probably pick up another title as well.
Join the right company
When Doreen Wright was at Campbell Soup, her CEO, Doug Conant, believed very strongly that each member of his executive team should sit on a board. “He knew that it would give his executives the ability to become better leaders and it would bring important knowledge back to Campbell Soup,” says Wright. “By serving on boards, we learned new ways of doing things. We were getting an external perspective, which was invaluable. It also taught us how to be more effective with the Campbell Soup board. Serving on an external board immediately increased our credibility with our own board.” If, unlike Doug Conant, your CEO sees no value in your joining a board and will not support your effort, either give up on the dream or give up on the company.
Build your executive search networks
“There are two ways that boards select their directors,” says Wright. “Either they conduct a formal executive search, or they will act on a referral.” Most large search firms have vertical practices (financial services, retail, industrial) and functional practices (CIOs, board practices, CFOs, heads of HR). When the CEO needs to recruit a new board member, she will approach the firm’s board practice leader for the search. If the requirements include a heavy focus on technology, that board practice leader will go to the CIO practice leader and ask for names. If you don’t already have a relationship with the CIO practice leaders at the major search firms, now would be a good time to start. “Two of my board appointments came to me this way,” says Wright. “The company engaged a search firm and told them, ‘We want a woman with a financial services background who has had experience with risk management and transformation.’ ” That recruiter walked right over to the head of the CIO practice and asked for suggestions. The CIO practice leader said, “Call Doreen.”
The other route to board work is for the CEO to reach out to his own networks for suggestions. “At the end of the day, if your name isn’t known among CEO or executive search networks, you are never going to make the list,” says Wright. This is no different from anything else in your career. It’s all about your networks.
Talk to your head of HR
Most likely, the human resources leader at your own company has a relationship with the major executive search firms, having hired such a firm to find the people who populate your executive boardroom. Once you’ve made the case with your CEO for joining a board (and gotten him to make some calls on your behalf), meet with your HR leaders as well. “Your HR leader can call his recruiter friends and say, ‘We have a great CIO and we’d like him to get some board experience. These are his skills; this is where he could contribute. Can you keep him in mind?’ ”
HR leaders have some leverage with executive recruiters. Get them to put the word out to their executive search networks so that your name is bandied about in the right circles. “I received many calls when I was CIO of Campbell, precisely because of this,” says Wright. “My head of HR gave out my name and people would call me for board work. It is an effective path, because your HR partner is in a position to describe you very well.”
Wait until you retire
When I was in third grade, my classmates and I were given the assignment of calculating our age in the year 2000. When I discovered that I would be thirty-four, I was horrified. How, at thirty-four years of age, would I enjoy all the hovercrafts and Mars adventures that would surely be in daily operation? I would be so old. I think that, similarly, many of us assume that when we retire, all we will want to do is travel and grow tomatoes. But that may not be the case. You may actually want to continue to engage as an executive, and board service could be just the thing. “Boards of directors may be concerned that a sitting CIO does not have the capacity to contribute to a board,” says Wright. “The CIO’s own CEO might have the same concerns. You may have a better shot at a board appointment if you wait until you retire.”
Join the board of a not-for-profit organization
Doreen Wright sat on the boards for a large number of not-for-profits before she sat on her first public company board. “You get a lot out of the experience,” she says. “These boards are not as professional or business oriented, and of course you don’t get paid, but you do get some pretty great experience.” Nonprofit boards are still boards, and they exhibit many of the same dynamics as their corporate counterparts. “How do you work together? How do you delegate responsibilities? How do you get things done? Nonprofits offer a chance to learn how to work as a governing body,” says Wright.
In addition to allowing you to contribute to something you care about and give back to your community, nonprofits offer a path to new networks as well. “Who do you think sits on nonprofit boards?” asks Wright. “All of the business leaders who share your passion. A bunch of CEOs and CFOs will be sitting on the board of your city’s ballet company; these are the people who hire public company board members.”
Do you go to your college alumni events? Do you still network with the members of your MBA class? In addition to nonprofits, there are other natural networks that you can leverage to widen your circle of friends. Bob DeRodes has participated in a number of local nonprofit boards, and values the experience. “You need to join a local board to get a sense of what a board does, how it operates, takes minutes, calls to order, all of that,” he says. “And technology people are in high demand at not-for-profits. These organizations are small and need IT advice.”
Do the Google test
About a year ago, I Googled myself (a phrase that still sounds slightly off-color to me, no matter how often I hear it), and I found something quite scandalous. Right at the top of the search results page was a story about a twenty-two-year-old woman from Iowa named Martha Heller who had engaged in a fairly bizarre entrepreneurial pursuit. (That’s all common decency will allow me to publish here. Go use your research skills to figure out the rest of the story yourself.) So here I am, publishing consistently for more than twelve years, and I am upstaged but one wacky woman doing one wacky thing. So, I hired a search engine optimization consultant who fixed that particular situation.
If you do the Google test yourself, what do you find? The first thing that someone recruiting for a board are going to do is research the referrals they are given. Whatever you find when you Google yourself is what they will find. Recruiters and board members will want to know if you gave the commencement address at a local university or if you’ve established a new leadership development program in your company. “Get out there, speak, get published, get noticed,” advises Wright. “You have to work to get yourself known.”
Make sure you really want this
You know the joke: What’s the difference between an introverted CIO and an extroverted CIO? The introverted CIO looks at his shoes when he talks to you. The extroverted CIO looks at your shoes. “Some of the most brilliant and successful people in technology are just not great conversationalists,” says DeRodes. If your clear preference is to read a book rather than walk into a room filled with people, you might not belong on a board.
The fact is getting a paid directorship on a corporate board is really hard. No matter the strength of your desire, if you don’t have the right background, track record, credentials, and networks, it may simply not happen for you. Join a nonprofit and enjoy the new experience, the new people, and the opportunity to give back.
However, if you do have a background that traverses IT and P&L leadership, if you are CIO of a respected company whose CEO values board experience in his executives, and if you have great networking skills, then start your board appointment plan now. Enlist the executive leadership team of your company and set a strategic plan to secure your first corporate board appointment. Compliance, risk, innovation, and mobility are all taking center stage for almost every industry on the planet. There has never been a better time for CIOs to serve on boards, and it is high time that boards saw the light.
Guest blog by Andi Mann, VP of Strategic Solutions at CA Technologies, excerpted from the book, The Innovative CIO: How IT Leaders Can Drive Business Transformation,which he co-authored with George Watt and Peter Matthews.
The Innovative CIO takes an approach that enables other business areas to “pull” innovation from technology. This approach is more consultative, more cooperative, more timely, and more aligned both to real-time business needs and to real-time technology innovations. It also equalizes the power to say “no” to new ideas—and the power to say “yes.”
So, how does the business know which services to pull? How do business leaders find out about the new technologies that might be available to them? To promote business pull of technology, one key starting point is the democratization of knowledge.
Business leaders are limited in their ability to apply new technologies to business innovation by the limits of what they know about the technologies available. They can only innovate within the "realm of what is known”—those technologies that they already understand.
But for them there is a vast "world of unknowns”—new technologies they have never even heard of, and which they would not even know well enough to ask about. Such business leaders simply cannot pull technology innovation into their business needs when they do not have the knowledge of what is possible.
Expose Business Leaders to the Latest Technology
This is where technology leaders such as the innovative CIO need to be more proactive. By breaking down the barriers to knowledge of new technology opportunities, the innovative CIO not only can allow but also positively encourage business leaders to innovate with technology themselves. You can help teach business leaders about technology, expose them to new opportunities, and be their trusted advisor.
For example, periodically brief your peers in the business—from the C-level down—on new and upcoming technologies to help them form a starting point for potential innovation opportunities. Initiate regular innovation or technology workshops with your business peers. Look at implementing the innovation funnel as one of the ways of articulating technology potential on a regular basis, talking with business leaders about the status of entries in the funnel.
This approach also addresses those CEOs who are inveterate headline readers, and who, left to their own devices, are prone to “management by magazine.” They see a headline about a new technology, or some new capability in which a competitor has invested, and start asking what their company is doing to catch up. This is exacerbated when there is little communication between them and the CIO.
Encourage your team to also take up this commitment to regular communications with their business peers. Remember that great new ideas can come from anywhere, not just from senior managers.
Acting as a trusted advisor to the rest of the C-team, the innovative CIO can provide technology awareness. And by extension, the entire IT department can help to nurture technology adoption by the whole organization.
You and your team are ideally positioned to work actively with business peers to explain to them the latest ideas, the newest technologies, upcoming capabilities, and potential opportunities—all with the purpose of enabling them to see and understand for themselves how these technologies can drive business innovation. Do not just teach, lecture, and inform—workshop together with your peers and their reports to drive innovation as a team.
Consider holding such workshops on both a regular and ad hoc basis. You can certainly plan such sessions ahead of time to cover relatively slow-burning technology changes, such as virtualization or cloud computing. But for explosive opportunities like the newest device release or the latest social networking development, a rapid response and immediate briefing may be a better and timelier way to keep your business peers informed.
Incorporate formal knowledge management (KM) systems to make the sharing of knowledge institutional, rather than a gating function in itself. You can buy extensive KM systems off the shelf, but they do not need to be overly complex or expensive. Start with something very simple, even just a shared notebook on a shared drive or a common folder for filing documents and pages on new technologies.
For just a little more complexity, you can have a much better system. Install a common innovation wiki, using one of many different open source wikis, allowing both IT and business users to collaborate on sharing knowledge about new technologies, what they could be used for, and which part of the business could benefit.
Extend a basic wiki with a collaboration service, or include other tools to foster innovation such as project management, content management, instant messaging, or resource management. You may evolve this service to a sophisticated system that connects and aligns business with IT through realtime business-connected ideation; knowledge; portfolio; project; and service management systems that include all of these capabilities and more.
This new approach to a democratization of information will help you to establish knowledge sharing about new technologies and new opportunities as a corporate-wide value, not just an individual value.
Beyond Democratization of Knowledge
IT must also act as part of the business, to be considered as part of the business. For example, as the technology leader and trusted advisor to the business, you need to actively consider the business interest of new technology innovations and whether IT should “own” these, or whether IT can better enable business users to own the technology themselves. The old school approach, of course, was that IT owned (and therefore controlled) all the new technology. The new world of consumerization now enables business users to directly select and deploy technology themselves, both from internal and external sources.
For example, business users can go out and buy their own tablets and start using them for work right away. Perhaps more impactfully, they can also “pull” innovation directly from third-party cloud service providers, such as sales managers signing up their teams to use online CRM and SFA systems, marketing managers signing up their teams to use web-based marketing services, or finance managers deciding to migrate the company accounts to a pay-by-use financial management service.
In an old school approach, the CIO may have taken steps, even draconian ones, to retake control of technology adoption and stamp out this “rogue IT” that threatens the standardized process. In the new school approach, this is entirely unacceptable.
Support Rogue IT
To achieve the status as trusted advisor, the innovative CIO must take a more balanced and business-centric approach. In some cases, this will mean doing more than merely tacitly condoning such rogue IT, but explicitly supporting it, and even actively encouraging it. Active interest in integrating and supporting new technologies, such as consumer devices, will also generate goodwill and add to the likelihood that you will be seen as a trusted advisor.
This is not to say that rogue IT does not create problems, especially with security, privacy, cost, and efficiency. However, it is the role of the new school CIO to focus on and resolve those problems, rather than stamp out these rogue practices entirely. For example, try encouraging business users toward one cloud service over another to stabilize budgets or leverage purchasing power, or implement tools or processes that prevent unauthorized data use and/or leakage when using cloud services or consumer devices. The key is to figure out what business users are doing, why they are doing it, and how you can help, rather than simply reacting and shutting it down.
The innovative CIO therefore must also be intimately aware of and driven toward real business goals. The whole business (IT included) must work together to take advantage of new technologies in a way that makes sense in context of the overall business goals. IT must also learn about the business goals—what really matters, where the priorities are, and where the problems are.
Guest blog by Gregory S. Smith, excerpted from his recently published book, Straight to the Top: CIO Leadership in a Mobile, Social, and Cloud-based World, second edition. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Reprinted with permission from John Wiley and Sons, Inc.
CIOs today are the primary educators of all things IT for the C‐suite. The technology trends that affect organizations today are being discussed in boardrooms, at watercoolers, and in offices throughout the organization, not just in the IT department. Because of cloud computing, social media, and the consumerization of IT, business professionals no longer are beholden to IT to turn up a new service, launch a new social media feed, or connect a personal device to the institution’s systems, most commonly e‐mail and messaging.
As a result, there are many different interpretations of the complexity and ease of implementation regarding many of the technology trends changing the landscape across the globe today. CIOs must be at the forefront and engage in meaningful conversations with the appropriate professionals, from business and office professionals to the C‐suite to the boardroom, so that decision makers have accurate information about the ease of turning up a new service as well as the risks, the integration requirements, the support costs, and the security implications.
CIOs today must be the teachers to the C‐suite. In addition to fulfilling our day jobs, we’ve evolved to become executive educators—and just in time, before half of our budgets are moved outside IT by 2020. We must become better influencers of technology strategy, spending, and support.
Educating the C‐Suite
Educating the C‐suite is an opportunity to build relationships, enhance trust, and educate at the same time. My research and my interactions with other CIOs across the globe lead me to believe that a winning combination of narrowing the CEO‐CIO gap and changing the direction of effort from operational to strategic is based on the following:
- Teaching the C‐suite and the CEO in particular is done through influence over time.
- Relationships between the CIO and other C‐level executives play a very important role in moving from operational and tactical to strategic IT. Spend time nurturing these relationships.
- Formal relationships are based on trust and respect.
- Respect is achieved through known external and internal perceptions of knowledge, leadership, and accomplishments. You must market yourself and your team’s accomplishments. You need to become an internal sales executive for ideas and accomplishments and an external adviser who shares their experiences, best practices, and lessons learned with others outside your organization.
- Education is a fine art, which is why many simply don’t do it well. A lecture is not educating. Educating is the fine art of influence and sharing of knowledge in a nonthreatening manner. CIOs need to remember that CEOs are some of the most egotistical professionals on the planet. Making bold recommendations and lecturing about the need to use technology A or B to solve a business problem could have a very negative effect and result in a non-trusting relationship. The best professors I’ve ever had taught me a lot. They showed me that caring about why one does something, teaches someone, or recommends a solution is more important than the lesson itself. Thus, teaching the C‐suite is a delicate proposition. Many CEOs might not take kindly, especially in front of others, to the fact that their subordinates are smarter than they are. It’s way too threatening. Balance and tone are the keys.
- If you influence the C‐suite, the C‐suite will influence the CEO. Spend less time trying to teach the CEO personally and more time politely educating the other executives about your ideas and how certain technologies can solve their business problems. These executives will do the heavy lifting by advising the CEO and supporting your position. Suggestions in numbers fare better than lone propositions.
Guest blog by Doug Moran, President of If You Will Lead, LLC, a leadership coaching firm, and author of If You Will Lead: Enduring Wisdom for 21st-Century Leaders. (B2 Books, 2011)
“How do we build a culture of accountability in our company?” That was a question one of my executive leadership coaching clients asked me recently. When I asked him what he meant by accountability, he had difficulty fully articulating what accountability meant to him. Finally, he said he wanted people to take ownership of their work and the results they produced.
After we spent most of an hour exploring what was missing and what real accountability would look like, he made a bold statement. “The first thing I need to do to build more accountability is to stop talking about what we should do. I need to decide what I am going to do to be more accountable and promote accountability within my team.” It was as if a light came on for him. He realized that while we all want to foster accountability, we can’t. I can. He can. You can.
Accountability Starts at the Top
Accountability happens when individuals take ownership, and that starts with individual leaders deciding to make it happen. Although my client had had a major breakthrough, he still had a big question to answer in the coming weeks, “How do I get started?”
|"The first thing I need to do to build more accountability is to stop talking about what we should do. I need to decide what I am going to do to be more accountable and promote accountability within my team."
Several days after this conversation, I was talking with a friend who was looking for a new kayak. He was so excited, because he had found the perfect boat. It was a Coosa 14 made by Jackson Kayaks. It was designed for the exact kind of fishing my friend does, and it had all of the features he was looking for. I don’t have the expertise to say whether it was as great a kayak as he said, but he was sold. He showed me several promotional and customer videos extolling its virtues.
As we watched the videos, I kept focusing on two things. First, I noticed the signs hung prominently in Jackson’s factory – “BUILD IT LIKE ITS YOURS!” Every one of the employees interviewed was a kayaker, and so these words reminded them that the safety and enjoyment of their customers depended on the quality of their work. That insured that they were never just shaping plastic, cutting holes, or attaching fixtures. They were making a boat, one at a time, as if it were meant for their own use. That instills accountability.
The second thing I noticed was the language many of the employees used. They talked in the first person. This wasn’t egotism. It was pride in their contribution to building an outstanding product. It was an articulation of each individual’s commitment to ownership and a culture of accountability. Every employee talked about their role on a team, but that team was comprised of accountable individuals.
While reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, I was struck by a passage that epitomized accountability. Following the successful completion of a seemingly impossible task, Dagny Taggert, the protagonist of the book, contemplated the meaning of ownership. “No, it was not made of papers, grants and permissions. There it was – in his eyes.” The point Dagny was making was that accountability lies within each of us as individuals. We can’t do anything to create or destroy it. We can’t make rules or pass laws that make people accountable. Rather, leaders have the opportunity to help others unleash it by rewarding behaviors that demonstrate accountability while removing anything that stifles it.
The most important thing we can do is to live and lead accountably. Leaders who promote accountability show that the opportunity and rewards of ownership are worth the inherent risk it carries. Sometimes that means letting people know that it is okay to fail; other times it means revealing upside potential that risk-taking offers. Mostly it means being accountable ourselves.
Four Actions that Demonstrate Your Commitment to Accountability
- When things go well, accountable leaders focus the praise on those who made it happen.
- When things go wrong, leadership means embracing accountability by accepting the blame for the failure and seeking forgiveness from those to whom we are accountable.
- Accountable leaders focus their energy on fixing problems, not pointing fingers.
- Accountable leaders create leverage and build confidence by delegating and empowering others to live accountably.
Taking ownership and being accountable can be scary, but without it, real leadership is impossible. What can you do right now to be more accountable? How do your actions create a culture of accountability? What one thing can you start doing that will demonstrate your personal ownership and accountability? What are the best examples of accountability you’ve witnessed lately? Share your thoughts and suggestions with the Heller Search Associates community.
Read Doug Moran's previous guest blog: Lessons in IT Leadership from Rudyard Kipling
Guest blog by Niel Nickolaisen, CIO at Western Governors University in Salt Lake City.
Over the past 18 months I have noticed a new phenomenon: Some of my most experienced and successful CIO peers have been losing their jobs. These are the IT leaders that taught me how to avoid ERP disasters, how to implement a PMO, on whom I relied to deliver an effective and innovative e-Commerce strategy. These have been some of my go-to people in learning what it means to be a CIO. Yet, they are now looking for their next, great opportunity.
This situation bothered me enough that I decided to do an investigation. I talked with each of my displaced mentors and, in some cases, if I had a good contact, talked with their companies. I wanted to find out what was happening, how the environment had changed, what these incredibly successful IT leaders were now lacking. My CIO friends were as surprised at their situations as I was. They talked about some project and process failures but those were mostly in the past. They thought things were going reasonably well – as well as things can go it IT – and they were pushing the right projects and improving IT operations.
The story I got from their companies was different. In every case, when I talked with the company president or VP of Human Resources, the answer was that the now-former CIO was "not strategic enough." Now, since most people have their own unique definition of “strategy” I pressed a bit more to understand what they meant. It seems that not being strategic enough means not using technology to push innovation forward.
We are not strategic if we are not delivering a mobile strategy, a social strategy, an analytics strategy, and collaboration strategy, and, I suppose, a customer mind-reading strategy. And, all of this in addition to never having an operational or project performance hiccup. That all sounds good and nice but how can we do it?
I try to be “strategic enough” in several ways:
- I meet with my leadership team peers to learn about their short- and long-term plans. I project those plans onto current and future technologies and present back to them ways we can use technology to achieve their goals.
- I conduct a range of experiments to try out advanced methods and technologies before anyone knows they need or want them. We recently finished a little analytics skunk works project that will make a huge difference in the success of our students. No one asked for the project. Very few people knew about the project. We tried some things that failed and then found something that worked. When we unveiled what we had done, everyone thought I was a strategic genius.
- I push for continually improving IT transparency. I want to remove all of the mystery about both IT and technology. I share the status of projects. At the same time, I almost never talk about technology features and functions – I focus my conversations on business goals and drivers for success.
- I invite my business peers to learn about technology with me. If I find an interesting technology that I think will advance our cause, I invite others on the management team to learn about the technology with me. This has led to some interesting reciprocal education. For example, our Chief Marketing Officer now invites me to learn about marketing methods.
- I am always in the “Yes” business (and if you are in the "No" business, get out of it). I actively pursue and say, “Yes” to anything that will make life easier – even if it conflicts with a service I already provide. I had a remote user backup solution – it was hard to use, did not work all that well, and everyone pretty much hated it. When I heard that one office had signed up for a consumer, on-line back-up service, I did not punish them, I embraced the service and made it available. One of the key aspects of consumerization is the wave of lightweight, easy-to-use consumer applications that are now available. I say “Yes” to these whenever I can.
I might lose my job for a variety of reasons but, if I have my way, it will never be because I am not “strategic enough.”
Guest blog by Abbie Lundberg. Abbie founded Lundberg Media, a communication consulting and services company, after serving as editor-in-chief of CIO magazine for 13 years.
I know for some people that the term "politics" raises all kinds of less-than-desirable, Francis Underwood-style connotations (have you seen House of Cards yet? Chilling). And the current national political scene, with its sequesters, blame shifting and inertia, isn’t much better. But that’s politics gone wrong. Politics done well is all about increasing understanding – of other people’s ideas and interests – in order to effectively wield influence to get things done.
A Role Born Out of Politics
Political acumen has always been important to CIOs. In fact, you could say that’s how the position came about in the first place. According to Paul Strassmann, longtime CIO and technology adviser, the title was created at Bank of Boston in the 1980s to help loan officers get their own minicomputers because the CFO had control over the mainframes. “To legitimize their acquisitions, they got Bill Synnott, then the head of Management Information Systems, promoted to the same level as the CFO and anointed him with the title of CIO for better effect,” he wrote in 2003.
Of course, the landscape of IT politics has changed a lot since then. The power structure of CFO and line executives seems almost quaint when set against the volatility created by the democratization of technology, putting sophisticated tools directly in every person’s hands and leaving no aspect of the business operating model unchanged.
" IT politics today requires a very different approach. It’s less about staking territory and imposing will, and more about exerting influence over others who also hold power."
Of the 500-plus senior executives surveyed for The Reinvention of Business, a research report I wrote for Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, 74 percent said they are changing their business processes as a result of new technologies; 61 percent are changing the makeup of or relationships with employees, customers, and partners; and 50 percent are making changes to their organizational structures. Over 60 percent said that, of all the corporate functions, marketing, customer service and sales will be most dramatically affected over the next three years.
'CIO v. CMO' is Hyperbolic Nonsense
Even so, when Gartner recently forecast that CMO spending on IT will outstrip CIOs’ in four years, it took a lot of people by surprise – and triggered some wild speculation about the future of IT leadership (“CMO v. CIO”; “Is the CMO the New CIO?” “CMO strikes first blood against the CIO”, etc.). This is hyperbolic nonsense. Bob Evans summed it up well when he wrote, on Forbes.com, “If you’re one of those deep-thinking but misguided folks who’ve begun predicting that CMOs are preparing to subsume the roles and responsibilities of the CIO, you might want to consider this news flash from Planet Earth: IT is the primary driver behind half of M&A synergies.”
While it is indeed silly to think the CMO would supplant the CIO, the truth is, power is shifting, and decision making (and budget) for IT will continue to shift as well. What this means is that IT politics today requires a very different approach. It’s less about staking territory and imposing will, and more about exerting influence over others who also hold power. As Art Langer wrote in CIO Insight a few years ago, “Good politics focuses on using forces that help move others to your point of view.”
Power Politics is Part of the CIO Job
In his article 10 years ago, Paul Strassmann wrote, “The primary job of a CIO is power politics… to manage conflict, to oversee the re-distribution of power and to re-allocate money so that information technologies may support the success of an organization.” Today that means understanding enough about the CMO’s ideas and interests (and the ideas and interests of all the other power players in the organization) to know how to work with and influence them. In a way, you could say IT is shifting from fiefdom to oligarchy to democracy. It will take political flexibility for CIOs to bring to bear the unique knowledge, skills and assets at their command and avoid a state of anarchy.
Have you had to up your influence quotient over the past few years? Learned to negotiate with the CMO or other power players in the organization? What are the challenges, and what have you found works when it comes to swaying others to your point of view? We’d love to hear from you.
For more on this topic, read my column on “The Influential CIO.”
The following is an excerpt from The CIO Paradox: Battling the Contradictions of IT Leadership, by Martha Heller.
[Part 2 of 3]
[Read Part 1: The Bias Against CIOs on Corporate Boards]
If you happened to catch my last blog on the subject of CIOs on corporate boards, you probably felt afterwards like you should just turnoff your smartphone, laptop or tablet and take a moment to mourn the loss of a board experience during your career. But before you do that, and just to make us feel good, let’s build the case for boards to appoint CIOs.
1. Diminishing Supply of CEOs
With the economic volatility of the last several years, CEOs have to deal with problems at their own companies, and many no longer have the bandwidth to attend to another company’s challenges. “The fact is, many companies do not want their own CEOs to sit on other boards. Board work is incredibly time consuming,” says Doreen Wright, former CIO at Campbell Soup and Nabisco, and current board member at Dean Foods and Crocs. “In times of crisis, my own boards have met twenty times in a three-month period. These days, companies do not want their executives gone for that long.”
"By turning a blind eye to IT, boards are ignoring one of the most key components of their chartered responsibility.”
- Bob DeRodes
2. Diversity of Personalities is Good
Boards often include a number of CEOs who have just retired and are not yet ready for a life of golfing and gardening. “There is a problem with this approach,” says Wright. “These executives are fresh off of a successful CEO career, which is great, but now you have a board populated by people who are used to making all of the decisions. When you have too many chiefs around the table, it’s a mess.”
If you look at senior management teams as a model, you find a blend of CEOs, P&L leaders, and functional heads. “It is the functional leader, whether it is the CIO, head of HR, or head of legal, who understands how to do things in large enterprises in a consistent, cohesive manner,” says Wright. “Functional leaders have to be highly collaborative. They have to understand how to reconcile big differences and natural tensions between, let’s say, a P&L leader and a particular function. The functional leader has a very different orientation than a P&L leader, which can be very valuable for a board.” And what works for an executive committee should work for a board.
3. CIOs Have the Broad View
My favorite phrase lately is: The CIO is at the nexus of all things. As CIO, there is no part of the business for which you do not have some sort of accountability. In such an integral role, you have an intimate knowledge of the business from beginning to end. “Boards need to understand that with a CIO, you are not just getting IT expertise,” says Wright. “You are almost always getting more.” The CIO is the only executive in the company who sees a business process from beginning to end. No other function, not even supply chain, sees everything: how you procure materials, how you make the product, how you package, ship, and sell it, how you collect the money in accounts receivable. So, just by definition, a CIO understands the company’s business processes better than anyone. “That’s an amazing perspective to have on the board,” says Wright.
4. Crisis Management
We can all cite scenarios where companies are in crisis precisely because of IT. A few years ago, my firm conducted a CIO search for a company whose $100 million, global, single-instance ERP implementation went horribly wrong. The project team missed most of its deadlines, the steering committee went back to the well for more funding a number of times, and the company’s warehouses could not get up-to-date order information for weeks. In fact, things were so bad that the CEO said to me, “I know I won’t get the benefits I wanted from the ERP system. My only hope now is that the project doesn’t kill us.” And that is nothing compared with companies that have experienced major breaches in customer information security. Wouldn’t a board member with IT crisis management experience be of help here? “By turning a blind eye to IT, boards are ignoring one of the most key components of their chartered responsibility,” says Bob DeRodes, former CIO at Home Depot and board member at NCR and Veracode.
DeRodes cites the numerous service and information security failures of major corporations around the world. “One of the primary roles of a board is to govern over operational areas that can have a material impact on the corporations’ financial condition or brand value. What single area inside the corporation has more opportunity to negatively impact these factors than IT? The risks associated with massive IT deployments are not only not well understood, but the backgrounds of the board members governing these companies rarely prepare them to ask the right questions of the CIO or, more importantly, understand the answers,” he says.
5. Change Management
Not only, as CIO, do you have intimate knowledge of the business, you also play a major leadership role in changing the business. “When we put in an ERP at Campbell, we changed 1,800 business processes,” says Wright. “And I had to make sure that everyone was trained and everyone knew the new processes and everyone knew how to use the computer systems, and how to hold the hands of the people who were resistant to change.” Most boards are leading their companies through some kind of transformation, and transformation falls squarely in the wheelhouse of the CIO.
6. Risk Management is Hot
Whenever there is an economic downturn or a major crisis, boards take a step back and reevaluate their membership. “Since 2008, more boards are conducting self-assessments and asking, ‘Who do we have on the board? Let’s check the boxes. We want to expand internally; do we have that expertise? What about our risk management challenges? Do we have that covered?’ ” says Wright.
According to Bob DeRodes, the evaluations that boards are currently conducting has led many of them to consider risk more closely. And, of course, CIOs have a unique perspective on the topic. “Boards would benefit from someone who can ask questions about how the IT organization identifies, categorizes, and manages risk, even at the highest level,” he says. “Boards need someone who can say, ‘Explain to me, CIO, how you categorize your risks, how you think about them, and then how you go about managing them. What are the execution plans behind that management?’ ”
Of course, boards have been talking about risk for years—it’s a topic typically treated by board audit or finance committees. But risk has taken on a new meaning in our current technology environment. “Information security, privacy, compliance, all those issues are deeply embedded in the IT organization,” says DeRodes. “As these issues get increasingly complex and high-tech, it is getting more difficult for even auditors to explain what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. So you’re finding more and more board members wanting a technologist around the table just to be sure they understand what the IT organization is telling them about how they are protecting customer information.”
Stay tuned for part 3 of this series: "Get Yourself Onto a Board."
Guest blog by Ray Attiyah, excerpted from his new book, The Fearless Front Line: The Key to Liberating Leaders to Improve and Grow Their Business. (2013 Bibliomotion, used with permission)
Much of our time is spent working— some forty, sixty, even eighty hours per week. That’s more time awake than we spend with our friends or family and rivals the time we spend sleeping. Shouldn’t the time we spend at work be worth it? Shouldn’t that time be filled with a sense of purpose and accomplishment and not just packed with appointments and never- ending task lists? Shouldn’t we be energized by the efforts and successes of our work team rather than drained by them?
Most, if not all, of us wouldn’t hesitate to answer those questions with a resounding “YES!” That’s because, deep down, we believe work should be more than just getting through a daily task list, checking off items as we finish them. Work should be a place that builds energy, not drains it. Work should provide opportunities for growth and improvement that bring out the best in us as individuals, as teams, and as entire organizations.
Too often, however, work isn’t like that at all. Instead of energizing us, it traps us. Instead of inspiring us, it dulls our senses. The workplace is full of bureaucracy and negative complexity.
Some companies shine like beacons of excellence and growth in the crowded market. So, what’s the difference between those companies that shine and the ones where work is a slog, apathy is everywhere, and products and people are mediocre at best?
"To compensate for their lack of confidence in the Run, managers become conditioned to overmanage and underlead. So, while they are stuck in the front line, they’re not leading or pursuing activities that propel growth and innovation.”
The key is in liberating leaders. In companies where complicated systems reign, nearly everyone has his hands in the daily details of producing the product or delivering the services. Managers and frontline employees (and top executives and sometimes even the CEO) are tangled up in running the day-to-day aspects of the business, or the Run. The frontline activities are so unpredictable, unreliable, and complicated, and the systems surrounding them are so often superfluous, that managers can’t seem to pull themselves away. (As you can imagine, this situation frustrates managers and employees alike.) Time and energy are consumed by urgent but unimportant tasks rather than activities that produce sustained personal and organizational growth. Managers have difficulty forgetting bad situations, and that inability to let go shakes their confidence in their frontline team and its activities.
To compensate for their lack of confidence in the Run, managers become conditioned to overmanage and underlead. Regaining confidence is an uphill fight. So, while managers are stuck in the front line, they’re not leading or pursuing activities that propel growth and innovation.
A Fearless Front Line
The precondition for liberating managers is having a front line that can operate reliably, excellently, and independently day in and day out every day of every week of every year. The Run needs to be rock solid— perpetually. It’s the foundation of the entire organization. Yet, at the same time that the Run needs to be solid, it can’t be rigid. It also needs to evolve and transform as the company innovates and grows. A Run like that involves getting the entire company, and particularly the front line, to be fearless. The front line needs to feel powerful, not powerless. It needs to be freed from worrying about senseless initiatives, ridiculous mandates, and unnecessary meetings and e-mails. It needs to be trusted, encouraged, and accountable to itself. It needs to be emboldened.
Think of the daily provisions that we add because we lack confidence and trust in flawless Run execution:
- Extra meetings
- Check-up e-mails
- Unnecessary conference calls
- Detailed Reports
- Useless measurements and data colelction
- E-mail distribution lists
- Repeated e-mail chains
- Emergency phone calls
- Sign-off requirements
- Approval restrictions
- Additional systems, procedures and processes
Clutter is a compromise; it’s a response to the unreliable nature of our frontline Run. When the Run doesn’t operate consistently at peak performance, we compensate by adding layers of systems and processes.
How Do You Develop a Fearless Culture in the Run?
Surmounting the impediments to creating a fearless culture in the Run isn’t as difficult as you might be thinking. There are three very practical ways to shape the leadership culture you want to pervade the Run:
- Raise the bar of excellence by investing in top performers and removing obstacles that frustrate them.
- Foster quick-win successes by removing frustrations and making meaningful changes quickly to bolster team confidence, enthusiasm, and trust.
- Implement daily huddles to foster a positive "what went well” environment, communicate your standards of performance, and create a simple touch point for communicating status of reactive improvements.
Keep it simple, and be fearless!
The Fearless Front Line - The Key to Liberating Leaders to Improve and Grow Their Business from The Fearless Front Line on Vimeo.