CIOs face several challenges when they first start. They need to get a handle on perceptions and expectations, pending business priorities, and an understanding of the current condition of IT financials and human resources. There is a narrow window of time to get an assessment of what needs to be done in the early days, and stakeholders are impatient for visible signs of action from the new IT leadership. Faced with these challenges, the new CIO needs to determine what steps need to be taken in the short term to get initial momentum, translate that into a plan, and get consensus among all stakeholders for early action.
Maurice Chenier, the former CIO for public works and government services Canada, provides a great example of how best to do this. In his first days as CIO, he knew that he had to quickly get in front of his stakeholders with an IT plan. He knew that the first weeks in the position were critical to his success, and he noted, "The 'first 100 days initiative' is necessary for CIO success. It is not an option."
The 100-day plan
Chenier conducted briefings during his first two weeks that set the stage for creating and evolving a 100-day plan. The purpose of these briefings was to:
- Construct an agenda. Drafting the short-term plan template that made sense to the executives formed the basis for Chenier's dialogue. This framework outlined high-level action topics and formed the basis for dialogue during the briefings. It also set the measures of achievement with stakeholders.
- Ensure that current assumptions were clear and valid. Chenier entered the role with a set of preconceptions about where IT was, and where it needed to go in the enterprise. Confirmation of these assumptions with executives upfront meant no surprises.
- Baseline current issues and opportunities. The business community had perceptions of what needed to be improved in IT and where the prospects for IT impact lay. These needed to be articulated in the plan as action items. The new IT organisation itself needed to buy into and contribute to the plan. They, with the CIO, were a significant source of intelligence on the challenges to be met and opportunities to be incorporated into the plan.
Chenier used his 100-day plan to establish his initial priorities - but its more important purpose was to build a foundation for the longer-term IT plan and for his management approach. The 100-day plan initiatives needed to be stated in measurable terms, and presented in a task and status dashboard. Chenier used the ongoing reviews on the progress of the 100-day plan as the forum in which he worked with business execs to shape this longer-term future. The initial discussions around inter-department relationships, governance, and the role of the CIO transitioned into discussions of strategy, value, and the leverage of IT.
How new CIOs capitalise on the first 100 days is pivotal. Precedent is being set, and initial impressions are hard to change if the CIO has spent too much time focused inward, or appears to be operating with no clear agenda. As the CIO who wants to build durable IT momentum, you should:
- Let your business peers know you are listening. When you are taking the helm of an IT organisation, you must start on the right foot with your your business peers. You'll need to learn their hot button issues, such as frustrations with previous IT leadership or expectations for IT responsiveness.
- Establish your management style early. Use the 100-day plan to also attune your governance, mandate, and authority balance so that it lines up with prevailing management style and corporate culture. Engage your business colleagues in discussion and debate and why your point of view makes sense in terms of IT's contribution to the business. After the handshake, you will have a strong supporter rather than a source of ongoing territorial dispute.
Lewis Cardin is senior analyst at industry analysts Forrester.
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