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Keeping Score

Keeping Score

Practising feedback analysis and understanding how your peers learn enhance the CIO's ability to communicate complex topics

Tired of justifying your seat at the executive table? Get your peers to stop thinking of the CIO as a service provider and start treating you like a business partner.

It should not be so, but often a CIO's success or failure is based on peer perceptions. Control those perceptions and you control your right to a seat at the executive table.

It boils down to being able to effectively articulate your contribution to your peers. By investigating the practices of 20 CIOs, we've found that successful CIOs use a combination of tools to achieve this.

It starts with the use of a four-part scorecard covering operational, individual, IS and enterprise contributions.

Four-Part Scorecard: Operational Contributions

Every successful CIO interviewed does one thing in common every day. They clear their head of operational firefighting - if only briefly - to create space to ask themselves the question: How do I remain relevant?

They run through a mental checklist to assess the credibility of their IS organization.

For example, operational budgets need to be an agreed percentage of revenue, most likely between two and four percent. Capital projects spending needs to be directly proportional to the amount of revenue expected from the investment, most likely calculated as return on investment, with the return being in eight months to two years.

Response time is also important. It's generally construed as a key indicator of operational efficiency against revenue generation.

And system availability also rates a mention. Simply put, if the system is not available, revenue cannot be generated, and the business is let down.

And now then there's the hard part: What else do I need to do? How can I develop my organization? How can I communicate our successes better?

Four-Part Scorecard: Individual Contributions

After the CIO has signed off mentally on contribution and knows his or her credibility is still intact, successful CIOs focus relentlessly on their interpersonal communication and collaboration skills.

Practising feedback analysis and understanding how your peers learn enhance the CIO's ability to communicate complex topics.

Be positioned to respond to questions like: What are the metrics in your compensation? How should that change to include your contribution role? Do you keep track of major business objectives? Are you part of a larger management bonus pool? If not, should that change? If you are part of that pool, do you use that as a collaboration driver with your CXO peers?

Even if you don't have a formal compensation structure tied to peer performance, organize your thinking in that mode. For example: How will I not only help myself earn my bonus, but what am I doing to help my peers earn their bonuses? This will focus the finance version of your individual skills scorecard.

Other questions concern the quality of peer relationships: Do your peers have a clear understanding of your role? Do you update your elevator pitch and practise it? How do you get feedback, and how often? How do you interpret its results? All of these practices will improve the quality of peer relations.

How much of your weekly calendar is devoted to peer time? How much is devoted to self education? How much time do you spend with your immediate reports? With others in IS? Are you out of the IT department at least 50 percent of the time? Striking an effective balance among tasks, especially with peers, will begin to characterize you as a contributor among equals.

Do you understand how your peers learn? Do you communicate with them in that mode? Have you noticed any uptake of new ideas as a result? Have you noticed any change in "peer noise" as you've honed your communication styles with each?

Document stakeholder interactions and issues. One CIO proposed this technique: "I look at my calendar every day, and make sure my key disciplines are evenly divided into three pieces of pie: Activities - the 'what I do' - calls, meetings, reports, networking; Attributes - the 'how I do it' - did I make someone mad, happy, satisfied, added value?; Results - the 'so what' - so, I did numbers one and two, but for what? How did I contribute?"

He documents interactions and issues for each key stakeholder peer. He also aggregates this data over time, and tries to discern patterns of behaviour, both problematic and valuable, from each side. As he sees approaches that work well, he tries to internalize them, while becoming more aware of those that hinder his contribution development.

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