Biztech Nov 20, 2012
Jeff Vining, Research VP, Gartner, in conversation with Biztech2.com, discusses the skillsets that make a CIO a good strategist. He also gives tips on what the CIOs should never ignore when planning their IT strategy how they should go about judging its success.
What skill sets does a CIO need to be a good IT strategist?
There are three broad categories of skill sets that every CIO needs in order to be a successful strategist. The first one is discernment – which essentially means being able to prioritise business objectives at a given point of time. There can be a lot of pressure and outside influence such as stakeholders demanding the CIO to do certain things. The CIO should refrain from falling into the trap of thinking: ‘I have to do something very big every 2-3 years or to do something worthwhile I need to have 2-3 big projects’. He/she should have the skill to look at things in the long run and develop projects that may not necessarily be what some of the stakeholders influence or what you hear in the media or from peer groups. All this requires discernment, which of course, comes with experience.
The second skillset a CIO needs to have is the ability to engage and communicate with the business side of the organisation, understand where the business is headed and what they need in terms of support from IT. Besides having a good understanding of the IT projects he and his team are involved in, the CIO also needs to be able to bridge the communication gap between IT staff and the business side.
The third most obvious skill set is an understanding of their technology environment, staying abreast of the latest and continuing to improve their knowledge.
What should an organisation’s IT investment priorities be?
I am a firm believer of the paradigm that the IT strategy should not be just for 2-3 years. CIOs need to think of a 5-10 years plan, and they need to think incrementally and tactically. Given the economic crisis, they need to think of an IT strategy that will drive revenues and control the operating costs. CIOs should drive their investment in technologies that can be tactically implemented without going through a significantly long tendering process. I’m seeing an increasing number of CIOs following this philosophy.
What is it that the CIOs should absolutely not ignore when planning their organisation’s IT strategy plan?
An area that CIOs should definitely not ignore is governance. And, by that I mean who decides and by what processes. Too many CIOs assume too much. Most CIOs tend to assume that the governance process is in place within their organisation, but that needs to be re-evaluated. Every strategic planning document, whether it is a steering committee or a technical committee, needs to be re-evaluated every time instead of assuming it’s going to continue to work as both the stakeholders and the technology are changing.
Next what the CIOs can’t ignore is the business objectives and how that benefits the organisation. Today, the business side is becoming a huge driver of IT, and it is no longer a 50:50 proposition. If the CIO does not include or ignores the business objectives then that’s to the CIO’s detriment. CIOs will bring more problems upon themselves and their planning process if they only look at what they need or what they are going to do in isolation to the business objectives. Hence, it’s an imperative for business needs and objectives to be considered in the organisation’s IT strategic plan.
An area that CIOs tend to gloss over is the technical risks to their organisation, and thereby ignore it in the planning process. This is something that they need to avoid. Another area that they completely ignore is change management. By that I mean how you are going to implement and enforce change in your organisation. And, this goes back to the earlier point I raised on governance.
How do you judge the success of an organisation’s IT strategic plan, besides RoI?
CIOs usually think that strategic planning is merely keeping a project on schedule and on budget. However, I believe that is just one component of it. It’s just a tactical approach to a strategic plan. In my opinion, the better way to judge the success of an organisation’s IT strategic plan is to judge the effectiveness of the governance between IT and the business side. Also, if you can demonstrate that you have improved the decision making process, then that’s another factor on which the success can be judged.