Five Easy Peaces

Five Easy Peaces

Now is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of themselves.

Recent events should cause each of us to review professional and personal goals, and what our business is really about. It has been a sombre few weeks since September 11, 2001. The IT industry spans the globe and many of us have friends, family and colleagues directly affected by the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.

Within 24 hours of the attacks, stories about stricken businesses continuing to operate began emerging. Despite the devastation wrought on their people, offices and facilities, many organisations had electronically stored records available off-site. These sites were immediately activated. Technology services provider Comdisco reported 35 of its customers with declared disasters requiring invocation of disaster recovery plans. Thirty of these were in the process of recovery on September 12. The delays for the other five were due to transport restrictions leaving New York City.

Devastating events such as the September 11 attacks underline the importance of "thinking the unthinkable". How many of us had such an eventuality in our scenario plans - or even an event one tenth as significant? But an event like this also forces us to identify what is really important to us, both at a personal and professional level. At a professional level, what is business really about? I refer to this as the five Ps, well five groups of Ps. Here is my starting list, and I'd very much like to know yours.

People and Personalisation

In the words of Tony Goldsby-Smith, an organisation is a metaphysical construct. What makes it work is the interconnection of people, their shared goals, belief systems, and the values and culture that bind.

I have a view that IT professionals are among some of the best managed staff - they must be or you will lose them. The shortages of the right sort of people have often meant that CIOs and other IT executives learned a lot faster than their counterparts in other areas of the business about how to manage staff. CIOs and IT executives have learned to treat people as individuals, that stimulating work is critical, and that rewards and benefits need to fit the life stage of each person.

Our Gartner Executive Programs (EXP) research recommends strongly that CIOs recruit for behavioural competencies and then train for technical and business competencies. Behaviours are hard to change, while learning is forever.

A few months ago Gartner's EXP in North America held a number of roundtables where CIOs were invited to bring along their HR executives. Many HR directors were stunned at the sophistication of personnel practices throughout IT-related parts of other companies. They had thought it was just their organisation's CIO who was complaining and wanting them to come up with innovative HR approaches.

However, while people are always a top priority, your job can disappear if there isn't a concomitant attention to performance and profits.

Performance and Profits

Even before the WTC and Pentagon attacks business was experiencing tougher times. While IT budgets are, on average, continuing to increase, that increase is at a slower rate. The onus is now on CIOs to clearly articulate to the management how IT is helping to lower business costs overall, and minimising IT-specific costs. At the same time, though, CIOs need to be investing for business agility. You need to ensure executives are educated in the symbiotic link between their ability to successfully implement business initiatives and the IT investment needed to enable these.

At a personal level you need to ask yourself some tough questions. How is your performance assessed, both formally and informally? Who is setting the agenda, you or a not-so-friendly executive colleague? How proactive are you in clarifying the type of personal performance you need to deliver? Do you provide management the overt links to that performance, with a clear trail of evidence as to how it impacts the business?

Politics and Positioning

Politics is a natural part of organisational life. It's about understanding and working with your organisation's dynamics. If you don't like the political part of the job, then reconsider where you ought be working. If you have examined your company's dynamics closely, and they are personally very destructive, then it might make sense to leave a "toxic" work environment. There are too many other important things in life than trying to survive in a negatively charged environment.

An important part of the dynamic of politics is how you position yourself. To what extent do you take problems to your CEO or CFO? When there are problems or issues, do you offer possible solutions or options with different types of trade-offs? At a personal level, how are you positioning yourself for the future? What developmental activities are you working on at a personal level? Even CIOs (and Gartner Research directors) have developmental needs they must pursue - or they stagnate. And that's not a scenario worthy of these times.

Portfolios and Perspective

To contribute to both generating revenue and lowering costs, CIOs must take a portfolio approach to delivering services. It's more important than ever to disaggregate the objectives, outcomes, performance criteria for endeavours, programs and projects, to take a perspective which sees both the whole picture and is able to identify how to manage the parts. CIOs are one of the few executives who have to deal with the whole organisation. They have a true "helicopter" view, which is increasingly valued by their C-suite colleagues.

Priorities and Paths

You can't get anywhere without a clear focus on some priorities - professionally and personally. There is never enough time, energy and resources to tackle all the things you want to do in your job; well, there isn't in mine anyway! We all have to establish priorities and focus on getting through fewer things effectively rather than more things in a haphazard way.

In the words of my colleague Bruce Rogow, many CIOs used to be faced with one 800 pound gorilla - whether it was Y2K, ERP, GST or the Euro. Now you are faced with 800 one pound monkeys all wanting a piece of your efforts. Even worse, the 800 monkeys are telling you how you should be doing it. In truth, most of us have more choices than ever before, both in a business and a personal sense. We need to work on a personal agenda where the path forward becomes clearer.

I suspect many of us are reworking our professional and personal agendas in the light of the September 11 attacks. Let's make them really worthwhile. I'd like to know personal Ps. Send them to me at:

Dr Marianne Broadbent is group vice president and global head of research for Gartner's Executive Programs

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