A CIO’s Guide to Surviving the first 180 Days

My-Pic-New A CIO’s Guide to Surviving the first 180 Days
Marisol Peters, MS, PMP, CIO, YAI

Business partnership is sold as a behavioral or psychological shift in operations. While mentoring staff and setting team goals are important behavioral strategies, you must first establish operational and outcome-driven foundations. For a first time CIO or one new to an organization, the biggest challenge will be that of operationalizing. This is a simple, straight-forward approach for surviving the first 180 days.

Step 1 – Trim the Fat

Misappropriation of expenses to IT’s budget is one of the reasons for budget overruns. Review your current year’s expenses, if there are costs that don’t qualify, have them reallocated asap.

List out all your applications, licenses, consulting firms, support vendors, etc. and obtain all associated invoices for the year. Question every expense. If your organization heavily outsources tasks, identify what the deliverables are in the statement of works and reconcile with what’s completed. If vendors are not being held accountable, then you most certainly are bleeding needlessly with no end in sight. Determine local install versus cloud-based, leverage economies of scale with bulk purchase pricing. The most miniscule of expenses add up such as bringing imaging in-house. If your organization is a non-profit, research free or discounted options. Many companies support social impact efforts.

Revisit your data/phone providers, millions have been saved on switching service providers alone. Right size your bandwidth needs, your network team can help you with peak utilization information.

Step 2 – Contracts, BAAs GET THEM NOW!

Once you’ve listed out all your vendors and have obtained cost info, next find the contracts, business agreements and statements of work for them. Dollars to donuts, you’ll find that you’re exposed, unprotected and have no contractual verbiage to safeguard you in pivotal areas such as secure data.

Step 3 – Know Your Team

Delegating is an art and its success relies heavily on your team’s talents, strengths and skills. Perform one on one sessions with every member of your team and together review their most recent resume. Ask about strengths or talents that aren’t necessarily part of their everyday task. Take note of their aspirations and get their input on potential improvements, this will give you a wealth of insight and it ties into step 5.

Step 4 – Priorities

As a newcomer, don’t try to make everyone happy, you’ll burn out and fail. Reverse-engineer the company’s needs and prioritize initiatives based on the following:

  1. Performance – system issues stemming from improper configurations, connectivity, latency, any that prohibits daily business operations
  2. Security – missing security policies and procedures, ATP, AV, encryption, etc.
  3. Regulatory – any technical changes relating to a regulatory, time-sensitive requirement.
  4. Deprecation – updates stemming from versions that are out of support for applications, OS, and more.
  5. Strategic Alignment – all those initiatives that align to the organization’s overarching goal(s)

Step 5 – Downsize & Uplift

It is through trial and error that you find the right mix of in-house and outsourced talents. Identify the value added by each team member as well as the need for that position. If a need calls for 10 to 15 hours per week, outsource it.

Just as important, is the need to build up and uplift your members. Now that you have your team’s collective bio and are fully aware of the organization’s need, now comes empowering them to be successful in attacking those priorities. Whether its additional training, certifications, conferences ultimately this will both earn you trust from your team while ensuring that they are able to support the organization, effectively and efficiently.

Step 6 – The Change

In technology, change is inevitable, and culture is a major obstacle in change. By cutting costs, empowering and aligning your team with the organization you’ve then become the “harbinger of change”. Next, the cultural adoption.

Change Management is a pivotal component of any organization. Unmanaged change leads to security exposure, cost overruns, improper adoption, miscommunication and so on. Use this as the basis to drive change at the enterprise level. Create a senior committee framework around initiatives, this promotes thought sharing and group consensus.

Empower all users with technological knowledge. The biggest complaint I hear from people is how IT never speaks in easily understood terms. Not surprising. Promote education that helps them in their every day lives and empowers them to be more self-sufficient. Something as simple as taking a screenshot can be challenging to some, so be mindful of the knowledge gap and help fill it. Don’t reinvent the wheel, YouTube videos and vendor provider trainings will suffice.

Step 7 – Value

Delivering value is a perplexing topic for IT leaders. Inherently, we associate value with our experience and education when truthfully these are meant for our resumes. Value is derived from one’s ability to generate revenue, enhance revenue-generating capabilities while dramatically reducing spend.

Step 8 – The Partnership

Quick recap; you’ve helped secure your organization, reduce costs and developed a talented supportive team, you’ve set the tone for change and empowered staff all within your first 180 days. This will be a daunting and challenging process of course but continue repeating these steps on a regular basis and serve as the beacon of positive change, it will get easier over time.