Office Building

Office Building

Slicing your time ever more finely and spreading it ever more thinly over more and more areas of responsibility is not practical or effective. All it does is reveal the holes in your coverage and stretch your capabilities

Forces fragmenting CIO time and attention are not one-off events. CIOs need a new way of navigating them.

CIOs have big jobs with diverse business, technical and organizational responsibilities. They operate in an ocean of complexity that requires masterful navigation to avoid disaster. The result is long days, and even longer nights for the CIO.

If this is you - and time poor CIOs are very common according to our research - then it's tempting to see simple time-management as the solution to all of your problems. Manage your time better and all your lack of time will go away. Unfortunately, the real world is not this simple.

Slicing your time ever more finely and spreading it ever more thinly over more and more areas of responsibility is not practical or effective. All it does is reveal the holes in your coverage and stretch your capabilities. The immediacy of today's operational issues overwhelms strategy, organizational development and influence building needed for tomorrow.

How can a CIO fix this? It's little wonder that a growing number of CIOs are turning to the office of the CIO for help. An office of the CIO is a management approach that blends the best aspects of direct reports, leadership teams and centres of excellence.

Many CXOs already use the "office of" concept. In common with the office of the CEO or CFO, a combination of characteristics distinguish the office of the CIO from other management structures in IS. The office of the CIO uses a team-based approach with an identified membership than can include the CIO's direct reports, but often includes people who do not normally report directly to the CIO, giving it the ability to assemble the best people when addressing enterprise issues.

There is no universal model for the office of the CIO according to our research, but there are general principles that most have adopted. In general, the office is small in proportion to the overall IS organization: less than 1 percent of total IS staff in large organizations (in smaller ones the proportion may be as high as 5 percent). The office of the CIO is used to handle architecture, strategy, security, business continuity, privacy and other responsibilities; it does not handle operations. The office of the CIO supports the CIO and IS leadership team; it does not compete with them. It is the scope that finally determines its size and focus.

As you would expect, there are plenty of pitfalls in such a universally useful concept. The most egregious are organizational in nature, leaving the office of the CIO an ineffective burden not a time saver. The most common cause of this is the office of the CIO itself. The moment it ceases to be an effective extension of the CIO's authority and passion, and instead becomes a group of CIO groupies that set policy, yet have no connection with or experience from the field, you know you have a problem. An entourage of courtiers and fools is to be discouraged. Choosing the right model to start with can help avoid this happening.

Choosing the right model. Our research found four organizing models which varied in formality and scope.

A semiformal office of the CIO usually does not have dedicated staff with specific job descriptions. Instead, it is a named "team", with members having operational responsibilities in addition to office of the CIO duties. Membership is often fluid, including CIO direct reports and additional expertise from inside and outside IS. This model is a common starting point for more formal office structures.

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