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The CIO’s first 100 days on the job – a major “to-do” right here!

By Andrew White | May 09, 2014 | 0 Comments

Information StrategyInformation LeadershipCIO First 100 DaysCIO

We have a document (see The CIO’s First 100 Days: A Toolkit) just for this situation.  It’s a very popular document on Gartner.com.  I read it, from cover to cover (it’s over 200 pages), back in February while I had the good fortune of sitting in the brilliant sunshine bursting into our Sydney office in Auatralia.

It’s a busy time.  Newly hired, you have much to do.  A key emphasis in our First 100 handbook is to take stock of your organizations IT assets.  What people do you have about you?  What is the organizations well being? Is it functioning or does it need urgent triage?  What are your current IT investments underway?  What are the business goals?  What is your hottest issue the business faces that needs IT help?  These are all key items to worry about in that first 100 days for sure.

I think there is an easier way to understand the state of enterprise architecture and to gauge the size of the gap between the plan (if there is one) and the work to meet those hottest business goals.  I would like to propose a cheat, a quick way to gain an understanding of the immediate work ahead.

If a colleague of mine at work tells me that they have issues with fulfilling their commitments, I check out their schedule in Microsoft Outlook.  In a second I can tell what’s going on.  Either they are over burdened in general and not able to protect precious time needed to deliver stuff, or they don’t use a schedule to dictate formally their work tempo.  Neither are good discoveries but they explain a lot about output gaps as well as the work ahead to get them back up to speed.

As with analysts and time management, so CIO’s and Information Strategy.  I would suggest that in the first 100 days the CIO should ask for and interrogate with relish the organizations’ information strategy.  I didn’t say information management strategy- that tends to concern itself with servers and boxes and vendors and tools and that part of the IT spend that IT worries about/uses to do its job.  An information strategy explains which IT spend is aligned on business priorities, and which parts of the information stock is aligned, and how, to specific business goals.

The reality is that there should be solution architecture before hand that led to an application architecture that led to an information architecture that led to the knee bone, and all that.  But information strategy does not, in my view, live down in the bowls of information architecture.  That’s too late, and too complicated.

But like the construction of a house, the foundation is the most important part of the structure.  An information strategy and its use will tell you how complete, effective and aligned to business those other, higher level efforts are.  So you don’t need to waste time with applications and BPM and standards and so on.  Go right to the engine room.  And then work upwards from there.

In my recent experience, this is what a number of CIO’s will find when they ask for a copy of the information strategy:

  • We don’t have one of these.  What does it look like?
  • We had one, once.  I think.  We don’t need it now because we are an [insert preferred vendor name here]
  • It’s a 206 page document (probably paid for and developed by a systems integrator, and representing 204 pages of background material, hiding the actual strategy)
  • It’s a blue folder on a shelf over there.  It’s dusty.  We update that at the annual planning meeting, or at least we used too.  We once had a rash young CIO who was In hurry that drafted the first one.  It looked and sounded good for a year but then he got frustrated and left the company.  I think we keep it up to date (the folder) in reverence to that chap.

If you are lucky you might find a 2 page document that identifies:

  • What information assets are currently in scope for alignment to which business goals
  • What investments in flight are related to which information assets
  • Reference to the governance and stewardship organization aligned to which information assets and what benchmarks and KPI’s are currently being targeted
  • What immediate risks are known
  • What alternative choices remain undecided in terms of future road map Etc.

The fact is, and I am sticking my neck out on this, many even the majority of organizations doesn’t have this 2 page document at all, let alone keep it up to date.  It is a sign, a rubric, that IT is focused on the right things.  The lack of it says a lot about the state of IT and its efforts to align information to business outcomes.  Just having such a document does no, of course, make a leader be.  Execution then comes to the for.  But that’s a different issue.

But let’s be fair here.  Firms have gotten by without this lovely idea of a 2 page information strategy and for a good many years.  Many firms are profitable without a legitimate information strategy.  But I would put it to you that:

  • Innovators actually do the work that such a strategy would do, sometimes informally or with other tools or instruments
  • Leaders emulate innovators with method and so do today have formal information strategies (of the 2 page type)
  • Followers tend to muddle through and with some smart, and lucky, investment decisions, keeping sight of their competitive betters and thankfully, for the most part, getting by.

But this won’t last.  Pressures are building in the area of security, risk, and social pressures, and new business models and opportunity abound on information and specifically digitalization.  Increasingly the lack of a formal information strategy is coming home to roost.  Industry innovators will do what they do.  The rest of us have to catch up, and seek to supplant the leader over time.  An effective, differentiated, and timely information strategy is what is needed.  With that, much of what IT seeks to do with its people, with its servers, with its vendors will take on a different hue.  And the results should be more aligned to desired business outcome improvements.

If I was ever a CIO, and I found that there was no living, effective, business aligned information strategy, I would make it a top priority, in my first 100 days, to kick off a task to develop it.  And how long will it take to develop?  My answer to that is 17 days!

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