CIOs: Don’t fall prey to these 10 common mistakes

Today’s CIO faces a broad spectrum of challenges that require business acumen, tech savvy, and strong leadership skills. It’s a tricky balancing act, but knowing about the pitfalls can help.

CIOs run highly technical disciplines and usually come from technical backgrounds. Their strength is in knowing the details of IT work. This gains them respect in the eyes of their staff and enables them to discuss the details of projects. Nevertheless, IT management responsibilities have changed substantially over the past few years. As more IT processes become automated, CIOs must become more business-savvy. CIOs also need strong people, as well as good communication and other soft skills. In this new world, CIOs must embrace new roles. Here are 10 mistakes that can trip up the CIO.

1: Practicing heads-down management
Technical people are task-oriented. They have a natural tendency to get completely immersed in technical problem solving. There is no room for heads-down management in CIOs — yet many continue to focus on the technical aspects of projects, forgetting about the people and the politics that can completely disrupt work.

2: Staying technical
Great CIOs resist the temptation to get into the technical details of IT projects. They understand that it is their job to ensure that the politics and business environment are optimal for projects. They focus on running the necessary interference for their staff to make conditions for success optimal.

3: Not checking project status
It can be difficult for CIOs to get out of their office and onto the “IT floor.” I remember one CIO I worked for as a young staffer. He thought our project was meeting deadline, and the project manager was telling him so, but the project wasn’t close. This project ultimately failed — but it might have succeeded if the CIO had done enough “management by walking around.”

4: Forgetting to praise
IT’ers (and their leaders) are committed to what they do. For most, it is enough to know that a job is well done. Still, everyone appreciates a little praise or recognition. Many CIOs don’t give it often enough.

5: Not communicating clearly about projects
One of the hallmarks of great communicators is that they make an effort to know their audience. They then find ways to communicate by using familiar terms. Coming from technical disciplines that use jargon, many CIOs must acquire this skill.

6: Not knowing the business
Many IT’ers go through their entire careers without ever working in the end business. Consequently, they have to learn the business on their own to make sure that their efforts are aligned with what the business needs. CIOs know this, but some fail to hone their own business skills — which is critical for building credibility with other executives in the organization.

7: Forgetting to forge key relationships
Relationship building with other executives and business influencers in the company is one of the most important things a CIO can do. It establishes a cooperative foundation for IT initiatives and improves the odds of project success.

8: Not being objective in IT platform selection
There is plenty of risk in IT projects. This makes it easy for CIOs and other IT decision makers to fall back on vendors and platforms they already know, even though they might not be the best solutions for the projects they’re working on. Maintaining objectivity when evaluating technology alternatives helps CIOs keep their options open and approach projects creatively.

9: Failing to learn staff capabilities and limitations
Some IT’ers are experts in specific areas of IT, some are great with end business users, and some are journeymen who can succeed in numerous project roles. CIOs are ahead of the game when they get to know their staff members’ individual strengths and weaknesses. CIOs should be facilitating IT training to shore up any staff shortcomings. And they should know which staffers are their go-to players and rising stars.

10: Micromanaging
When projects go wrong, it’s tempting to step in and start running them yourself, especially if you’re in a smaller shop. But when CIOs do this, they neglect other projects and areas of IT that require their attention. A better strategy is to meet with project managers and help them get the project on track. As a last resort, you might need to replace a project manager — but it should be with someone else who can take the project — not you!

Other pitfalls?
What mistakes have you made (or seen other CIOs make) that created problems for IT and the business? Share your experiences with us.

Source: TechRepublic-CIOs: Don’t fall prey to these 10 common mistakes By Mary Shacklett


10 highly valued soft skills for IT pros

Today’s IT pro needs both technical expertise and soft skills — that’s nothing new. But the scope of those in-demand soft skills just keeps growing.

Depending on which company you talk to, there are varying demands for IT technical skills. But there is one common need that most IT organizations have: soft skills. This need is nothing new. As early as three decades ago corporate IT sought out liberal arts graduates to become business and systems analysts so they could “bridge the communications gap” between programmers and end users. And if you look at the ranks of CIOs, almost half have backgrounds in liberal arts.

So what are the soft skills areas that companies want to see in IT professionals today?

1: Deal making and meeting skills
IT is a matchup of technology and people to produce products that run the company’s business. When people get involved, there are bound to be disagreements and a need to arrive at group consensus. IT’ers who can work with people, find a common ground so projects and goals can be agreed to, and swallow their own egos in the process if need be are in high demand.

2: Great communication skills
The ability to read, write, and speak clearly and effectively will never go out of style — especially in IT. IT project annals are filled with failed projects that were good ideas but poorly communicated.

3: A sixth sense about projects
There are formal project management programs that teach people PM methodology. But for most people, it takes several years of project management experience to develop an instinct for how a project is really going. Natural project managers have this sixth sense. In many cases, it is simply a talent that can’t be taught. But when an IT executive discovers a natural project manager who can “read” the project in the people and the tasks, this person is worth his/her weight in gold.

4: Ergonomic sensitivity
Because its expertise is technical, it is difficult for IT to understand the point of view of a nontechnical user or the conditions in the field that end users face. A business analyst who can empathize with end users, understand the business conditions they work in, and design graphical user interfaces that are easy to learn and use is an asset in application development.

5: Great team player
It’s easy for enclaves of IT professionals to remain isolated in their areas of expertise. Individuals who can transcend these technical silos and work for the good of the team or the project are valued for their ability to see the big picture. They are also viewed as candidates for promotions.

6: Political smarts
Not known as a particularly politically astute group, IT benefits when it hires individuals who can forge strong relationships with different constituencies throughout the company. This relationship building facilitates project cooperation and success.

7: Teaching, mentoring, and knowledge sharing
IT’ers able to teach new applications to users are invaluable in project rollouts. They are also an asset as teaching resources for internal IT. If they can work side by side with others and provide mentoring and support, they become even more valuable — because the “real” IT learning occurs on the job and in the trenches. Central to these processes is the willingness to share and the ability to listen and be patient with others as they learn.

8: Resolving “gray” issues
IT likes to work in binary (black and white). Unfortunately, many of the people issues that plague projects are “gray.” There is no right or wrong answer, but there is a need to find a place that everyone is comfortable with. Those who can identify and articulate the problem, bring it out in the open, and get it solved are instrumental in shortening project snags and timelines.

9: Vendor management
Few IT or MA programs teach vendor management — and even fewer IT’ers want to do this. But with outsourcing and vendor management on the rise, IT pros with administrative and management skills who can work with vendors and ensure that SLAs (service level agreements) and KPIs (key performance indicators) are met bring value to performance areas where IT is accountable. They also have great promotion potential.

10: Contract negotiation
The growth of cloud-based solutions has increased the need for contract negotiation skills and legal knowledge. Individuals who bring this skills package to IT are both recognized and rewarded, often with highly paid executive positions.

Source: TechRepublic-10 highly valued soft skills for IT pros By Mary Shacklett

CIOs, CDOs and CMOs: New IT roles and responsibilities

UBS CIO Oliver Bussmann explores how a new set of technology stakeholders is changing the dynamics of IT decision-making.

The role of the CIO has changed dramatically in recent years — but so too has the line-up of executives who influence the shape of IT projects, programs and budgets.

According to UBS group CIO Oliver Bussmann, there are now three clear levels of maturity in the IT leader’s role. “Typically as a functional CIO you are driving operational excellence, the shape of your infrastructure and the applications portfolio, your sourcing and partner strategy,” he says, highlighting the availability of various industry benchmarks for measuring that.

The second phase, he observes, is for the CIO to become part of business transformation, to sit at the management table with the rest of the business, mapping out business plans and turning those into IT roadmaps and investments.

But the third maturity level involves an active engagement with innovation — understanding the impact of new digital technologies and business models and sharing that knowledge with internal and external customers. Such innovation can then be injected into new products and business approaches, says Bussmann. “That’s a different strategic role for the CIO and the IT organization, and one that can drive a major impact on revenue, brand awareness and so on.”

If that sounds like the description of the role of a chief digital officer then it is intentional. “From my perspective this third role, as a strategic, innovative CIO, certainly encompasses that of a chief digital officer. You need a sound understanding of the existing IT landscape, a deep knowledge of the business’s core processes and also the ability to leverage what you learn outside the organization.” That might involve taking advantage of disruptive technologies — such as mobile, social, cloud or big data — and mapping those onto business opportunities, he says. And no one is in a better position to do that.

“The CIO and the IT organization is perfectly placed to have that end-to-end knowledge and then to team up with other players like the chief marketing officer (CMO) and line of business heads to drive through those changes,” says Bussmann.

That engagement with the CMO, or with marketing heads across UBS’s different lines of business, is particularly important, he says, given the influence many marketing leaders now have over IT spending.

“At both UBS and previously as CIO of [business application software company] SAP, I have built a very close relationship with the chief marketing officer. With the growth of digital channels, CIOs and CMOs are teaming up to leverage the new and different ways of approaching, attracting, interacting with and retaining customers.”

And that “totally different game plan” is inevitably impacting the priorities that determine marketing spend and IT spend, he highlights. “There is a new level of [marketing] sophistication out there that requires strong technology support. So that relationship is now critical.”

Source:, CDOs and CMOs: New IT roles and responsibilities