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More than just tech skills

Damien Wong | Sept. 27, 2011
In today’s complex, connected, need-it-yesterday world, CIOs need a completely new set of metrics.

How would you rate yourself as a CIO? Some IT executives might evaluate themselves by their ability to manage IT budgets or to hire great employees. Others may measure themselves by the respect of their organisation and industry peers. And others could answer the question by assessing the breadth of their knowledge about enterprise technologies.

The reality? None of these are reliable indicators of CIO effectiveness. Experts and former CIOs agree that in today's complex, connected, need-it-yesterday world, you need a completely different set of metrics.

Business Vision

Though the measure of effectiveness for CIOs and business technology varies from company to company, there's one theme common for all companies, according to IT consultant Keith Morrow."It's really, 'Are you delivering against the vision and mission and strategy that your company has laid out? How are you delivering against that? At what level, what pace, are you exceeding that?' It's highly correlated to the hopes and dreams of the business stakeholders," Morrow says.

Morrow should know. As the former CIO for 7-Eleven and Blockbuster, he led a major turnaround in the financial performance of DVD-by-mail segment and modernised 7-Eleven's retail information systems, including adding their in-store retail mobility platform. "I think the listening and responsiveness is the big issue. You can call it 'alignment with the business,' but CIO effectiveness is highly correlated to how much the tech team can understand about the business," he adds.

Leadership Skills

Maintaining and increasing alignment demands world-class leadership skills (see box) supported by a systematic approach to measuring and improving performance. Business and technology get out of alignment when IT perceives its role as that of reactive order taker rather than as a value generator. Supervalu CIO Wayne Shurts agrees: "Too often, IT is off in the closet and gets called in when there are requirements," he says.

Morrow says being an effective CIO today is much harder than it used to be, and the interconnectedness we enjoy from Internet technologies is at the heart of that shift. "The complexity is unbelievable. It's just exponentially worse. If you go far enough back, you had one or two or three core systems that sort of did everything. Now you have hundreds and hundreds of systems," Morrow explains.

Performance System

Managing and monitoring a technology organisation's performance from a holistic viewpoint is one way CIOs can focus on leading instead of reacting. "You can't do everything and be everything to all people-performance management helps you prioritise and removes low-value tasks," Morrow says. Armed with the real-time visibility provided by a comprehensive performance system, it's easier to filter out the countless minute-to-minute distractions generated by isolated systems and processes.


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