You look at your to-do list and everything seems hard and insanely long-term. Create a five-year strategic plan. Map out the skills your IT organization will need over the next 36 months. Sign that seven-year outsourcing deal.
It's okay. You can admit it. Sometimes it can get a little. . . overwhelming.
Quick, effective tactics that can improve the IT organization, boost your career, add to your technology knowledge, sharpen your management skills and enhance your relationship with the business
What you need is a 20-minute miracle.
Of course, most big transformations take a while, but not all changes require a military campaign. There are things you can do in just one-third of an hour that can have a meaningful and, yes, even a long-term, positive effect on your life, your job and your enterprise. You could call a customer; you could downsize (and revolutionize) your weekly meetings; you could try out some Google Apps. We've gathered 20 of the best ideas we could find: quick yet effective tactics that can improve the IT organization, boost your career, add to your technology knowledge, sharpen your management skills and enhance your relationship with the business.
Now all you have to do is free up that first 20 minutes to read this article.
Let us know how these work out for you. And tell us about your own ideas for how to accomplish change in 20-minute doses.
This could be the start of something. . . short.
1. Counterintelligence 101
Grab the annual 10-K reports that your top competitors have filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission and read the section called "Management's Discussion and Analysis". That's where the CEO (through corporate lawyers) describes what happened to the company in the past year, good and bad.
By scanning that material, you can immediately get a better understanding of the competition, says Mary Lacity, professor of information systems at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
"CIOs need to enable business strategies and the CIOs' bosses will certainly be developing strategies vis-a-vis their competitors," Lacity notes.
To buttress what should be an ongoing campaign to elevate your IT work in the eyes of your fellow execs, check out how your top competitors position IT. UPS's latest 10-K mentions technology 32 times. Target, Kohl's, Citigroup and Blockbuster are also known for tech talk in these annual reports.
Also, says Lacity, note whether rivals' technology leaders are part of the senior executive team. "If most competitors have their CIO reporting to the CEO," she says, "that might be ammunition for a more prominent role for you."
— Kim S Nash
2. The Mini-Meeting
If singles have figured out a way to condense that painful first date into eight minutes of intense communication, why not try the same thing with your IT meetings?
Sit down right now and reschedule all your internal IT meetings for just 20 minutes. If that's too radical, do it for the get-togethers happening this week. Or, if you're feeling especially powerful, try it for your interdepartmental meetings.
"There's only about 15 minutes to 30 minutes of true productivity in most meetings, even though meetings are typically set up for an hour," says Michael Hites, CIO of New Mexico State University, who once placed a 30-minute limit on all meetings. "The idea is that it forces you and your meeting buddies to prepare and focus." Hites found that shorter meetings were more effective and left more time to actually accomplish things.
If you like that idea, consider this even more sweeping suggestion from Direct Energy CIO Kumud Kalia: Cancel all recurring meetings with your subordinate staff. "Ask them to come to you with major issues, not every little decision," Kalia advises.
— Stephanie Overby
3. Business Intelligence 201
Take your own company's 10-K and pay attention to the bad stuff that happened in the past year. Think about how technology affects such events, then figure out what you can do about them. For example, in its latest 10-K, Owens Corning, the $US6.5 billion maker of construction materials, talks about how the decline in US home building hurt sales. Could better business intelligence have predicted how steeply new construction would fall and have helped Owens prepare?
Think also about how IT can mitigate the scary possibilities cited in the "risk factors" section. Blockbuster notes in its latest 10-K that consolidation in the movie rental industry looms and that some video stores will be forced to close. "If we are unable to capitalize on the store closings of our competitors," the $US5.5 billion company's report says, "we may be unable to grow our market share and our financial results may be adversely affected." You can bet Blockbuster's new CIO, Keith Morrow, is thinking about how he can help the company profit from competitor losses.
This 20-minute exercise educates you about the central business issues that your company faces and fights, and what matters to Wall Street. Remember that what Wall Street thinks about your company affects your future and your paycheque.
4. Your Vendor, Revealed
Ask your most important tech vendors to conduct an assessment of their relationship with your organization. "This requires minimal effort on the part of the CIO," says Chris Pattacini, vice president of outsourcing consultancy Nautilus Advisors, "but it can pay big dividends."
Of course, there's a catch. Vendors might not be as honest as you'd like for fear the information could be used against them in future negotiations. Put the vendor reps at ease and make sure to invite them to rate not only their organization's efforts but yours as well. "The assessment can spark a great dialogue about innovation, relationship issues and other below-the-radar opportunities for improvement," says Pattacini.
To make sure the vendor representative follows through, give him an achievable goal and a deadline. Ask him to share his top three ideas for improving the relationship at the next client-vendor meeting, says Eugene Kublanov, CEO of globalization advisory firm NeoIT.
5. Self-Knowledge Is Power
Twenty minutes is a perfect amount of time for some good, honest introspection.
Gene Bedell, author of Three Steps to Yes: The Gentle Art of Getting Your Way and the upcoming The Millionaire in the Mirror, promotes the merits of structured introspection. "Sustained changes in behaviour can lead to important improvements in things like career, company, work-life balance," says Bedell, a former IT leader at First Boston, among other companies. "A period of serious self-analysis is a good place to start."
Find a quiet room where you won't be disturbed. Ask yourself if you're working toward something or just working. Do you want to be CIO of a Fortune 500 company? Do you want to start a business? Zone in on your passion, says Bedell. "It doesn't matter what you have your sights set on, but they must be set on something," he says. "If you don't know where you want to go, it's unlikely you'll succeed long-term." This step should take five minutes.
If your goal is vague — grow, get promoted, make more money — spend the next five minutes seeking specificity. Throw out modesty and uncertainty. Someone's got to come up with the next Google or become the new CIO of GE. Why not you?
The last 10 minutes will be the "10 minutes of truth," says Bedell. Ask yourself what you're going to do when you leave this quiet spot in minute 21. Will whatever it is help you achieve the goal you just set? Or will you be just getting a job done, earning a paycheque? If it's the latter, you've still learned something important: You need to change.
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