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Part 2: The New CIO Laying the Groundwork

Updated: Oct 23

A CIO's First 100 Days of Strategic Discovery

In my last blog post, I provided a framework that a new CIO can adopt when striving to come up with the plan and strategy to deliver on the success of IT and Digital. I had many questions on each of the specific stages that I have decided to elaborate each of them in more detail. In this first follow up post, we’ll cover one of the first activities, which is to delve deep into the existing business strategy. The business strategy is the north-star for all in the organisation, it establishes the path that we are all on and we should all group towards those same goals. As a business leader, in this instance a CIO, our responsibility is for IT and technology to play its part to achieve these goals.

As a new CIO, it's imperative to begin by recognizing where the organisation currently stands in relation to its envisioned future. This involves a thorough exploration of the company's aspirations, which need to be meticulously understood, documented, and agreed upon by all stakeholders. It's about seeing the picture in high-definition: is the organisational focus tilted towards exponential growth, acquisitions, or is it on organic growth? Uncovering these focal points will then naturally segue into a more granular view of the company's objectives, which could span a spectrum from revenue targets to forays into new markets or industries.

One of the core tenets to adhere to is to take the time to understand what the organisation is doing now versus what it aspires to achieve in the future. This is not a mere exercise in theoretical conjecture but a pragmatic step towards aligning IT strategies with business ambitions.

In instances where the strategy is not well documented, which might often be the case, the onus falls on the CIO to extract this crucial information from the minds of the CEO, executives, and the Board. Ask questions like “Where does the company plan to be in 5 years?”, “How does it intend to get there?”, “How does that differ from what the company does today?” and “How will success be measured?”. This is not just about having informal conversations but engaging in structured dialogues to draw out the strategic roadmap that perhaps resides as knowledge in people’s heads. Additionally, your peers and senior management will see this as ‘asking the right types of questions’.

A well-rounded strategy isn't just a lofty vision but a blend of long-term (say a 5-year vision) and short-term goals. These short-term milestones are pivotal as they serve as litmus tests to gauge whether the organisation is on the right trajectory towards its long-term vision. It's about having a binocular view: having the ability to focus on the distant horizon while not losing sight of the immediate path.

Furthermore, a strategy without metrics is destined to fail. It's essential to be measurable within the strategy and to have a tangible understanding of success. These metrics serve as the North Star, guiding the organisation, ensuring it's always aligned with its strategic goals and its a common, objective view that every needs to target.

The questions of where the organisation is aspiring to go, be it through a path of exponential growth, acquisitions or organic growth, are central to shaping the IT strategy. The CIO must have a pulse on these business goals as they serve as the guiding light, illuminating the path of strategic IT initiatives.

In conclusion, the first 100 days for a CIO are not just about getting acquainted with the new role, but about immersing oneself in the business strategy, engaging with the stakeholders to understand the organisational aspirations and goals, and beginning to align the IT strategy with the business vision. The business strategy needs to be the myopic goal of the CIO in the first few weeks as he or she starts to become the strategic partner who can steer the IT ship in harmony with the organisational tide, ensuring a journey towards a promising horizon.

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