Firstly, a huge congratulations to all the technology leaders in the recently announced CIO50 for 2018.
As a member of the judging panel for this year’s awards, I was inspired by the breadth of work going on across the country. I also have a new found respect for the work that goes into reviewing and ranking all the entries.
After reviewing each of this year’s entries in detail, I have some advice for future entrants that CIOs may find helpful.
You are busy. You wouldn’t be in your role if you didn’t have a lot on your plate already. The judging panel are also busy and their time is valuable too. A couple of things I found frustrating this year in a number of the applications were industry jargon and confusing writing.
While we all have some background in technology, many of you used industry specific jargon from the organisations you work in. I didn’t understand much of it upon first read, which breeds frustration as judges either resort to googling acronyms, or re-reading passages several times to try and understand the business context of what you are communicating.
Tip: Assume you are pitching to someone outside your industry. Use plain business language and avoid specific jargon. Your meaning should be really clear so as to grab your audience on the first read.
Have someone proof read your entry who is not from your industry, and even better, not a CIO either. If they ask you what it means, then it needs to be simplified into layman’s terms.
Make it compelling
There is some great work going on but I found in many cases I had to keep re-reading submissions and reading between the lines to understand the benefits being provided.
There were descriptions of cool technology and innovations that didn’t have a clear link to business benefits. That’s not to say there were no benefits, it’s just that in some cases the benefits were not obvious. Innovation without purpose isn’t very inspiring. Don’t assume the benefits of your project are self-evident because they may not be.
Tip: Treat the application like a sales pitch, where you, your team, and your achievements are the product. Make it clear and link strongly to outcomes and benefits. If you are uncomfortable with framing it as a sales pitch (it’s a competition after all) then think of it as a business case you are making to your board or wider business executive team.
Your board members have diverse backgrounds and experiences and you will pitch to them in clear business language free of jargon. So treat your CIO50 entry in the same way.
Answer all the questions
Okay, acknowledged, the entry process is not an exam. However your answers to each section are being directly compared to the answers of other entrants. Some people elected not to provide a response to all sections. Noting these sections relate to the judging criteria, you are harming your score if you do not address all of the criteria.
Tip: Address all criteria, they are there for a reason. Otherwise you are doing yourself a disservice.
Measure twice, actually more than twice
Many of the entries described business benefits and outcomes but did not quantify them. The entries that stood out from the pack gave careful consideration to detailing the benefits of their initiatives. This applies not just to technology initiatives, but also for leadership qualities and the impact this had on their organisation.
Tip: Clearly quantify the benefits and outcomes achieved. Numbers are important and they help to crystallise the stories and make them more compelling. It can represent the difference between “hmm that’s interesting” and “wow, that’s quite an achievement” in the mind of judges.
A final thought on innovation
If you want to go stir crazy, try entering “define innovation” into the Google search engine, then read everything that comes back. Suffice to say that innovation means different things to different people, and so it probably means something different to each judge on the panel of the CIO50.
To me it involves creating a new technology that solves a problem in a new way. Also, using a new technology to solve a problem that others are yet to latch on to (early adopter). Or perhaps leveraging an established technology in a new way that others haven’t thought of, to solve a problem.
Tip: In my personal view, innovation is not using an established technology to solve an established problem. That is, treading a well-worn path. These projects are beneficial, necessary and worthwhile, and we all have some of these in our project portfolios. Please don’t try and dress them up as innovation however.
Congratulations again to this year’s CIO50, and I look forward to reading more inspiring stories that emerge from next year’s list.
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