Part of the Problem
Pressure does not get a good press, yet some CIOs interviewed for this piece (a range of interviews were held with several CIOs speaking on condition of anonymity) claim they themselves can be guilty of adding to the pressure. "I was in a round table recently and found that some CIOs generate their own work," one CIO says. "If the business is not demanding it then you don't take on extra work. Do what the business wants: work on smart things. If it's glaringly obvious that you need something — like disaster recovery — then do it, but otherwise just do what the business wants." To offer more pumps up the pressure, was his argument.
While most other CIOs take a slightly less reactionary stance, most of them acknowledge that there are many occasions when it pays to say no, whether it be to an unsuitable consumer class technology being demanded by a Generation X employee or to a project that simply does not stack up in the strategy and budget stakes.
For large companies, the need to say no can be even more acute. One CIO who has worked in very large organizations most of his life says that the pressure in the big companies is greater because of the sheer volume of different things that have to be done and the number of things the CIO has to keep across. And however bad it might be for Australian big business, it is worse overseas, he says. "I've had a chance to visit similar organizations in the US and the UK which are an order of magnitude larger than we are and amidst all the pressure there are always some things that you have to keep your eye on, the key projects, and keep across them.
"I've just had people in here saying that a new release is coming out and they had 74 listed priorities but they can only do 58 of them," he says. "The way to tackle that sort of pressure is to identify what can be done in the time frame, and then do it, alerting business to the fact as early as possible."
As another CIO puts it: "CIOs have to realize they can't do it all. There will always be more demand on IT than ever resources to do it . . . If people say: 'Why have you not done it?', then you say you'd be happy to do it but they have to pick which other projects to drop. You need to spend enormous amounts of time establishing your own political credentials in the organization.
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