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Part 3: The CIO's Journey of First Impressions and Hypotheses

A CIO's First 100 Days of Strategic Discovery

In the first follow up post on the first 100 days of a new CIO, we covered the importance of understanding the current and future business strategy. During this discovery, a curious CIO will start to ideate and hypothesise where the IT strategy may need to head. In this post, we’ll explore how to harness these early ideas, without jumping to conclusions.


Among the invaluable assets a new CIO brings to the table is a fresh perspective, unclouded by organisational biases. It is through this fresh eyes that initial impressions form, serving as the embryo of a strategic hypothesis. These first impressions, perceived from a vantage point of neutrality, often unveil insights that might elude the CIO after he or she is engrained in the organisation, its complexity and its culture.


It was the fresh eyes of Steve Jobs, upon his return to Apple, that saw the potential in simplifying the company's convoluted and drab product line, setting the stage for a design-centric strategy that would hallmark Apple’s identity. This is testament to the power of fresh perspectives in unravelling new pathways.


As a new CIO, embracing these initial impressions is pivotal. Documenting them is critical for the thinking that will later morph into a well-articulated end-state. It’s about capturing the raw essence of IT’s potential role in driving business outcomes before the organisational complexity colours these perspectives with the dozens of reasons of "why it can't be done".


It’s about envisaging how to potentially adapt a digital strategy that is in sync with the organisational outcomes. It's an opportunity to evaluate some out-of-the-box thinking, such as a new way to integrate technology, the role the Data Platforms will provide, or considering some software as a strategic or competitive advantage, that may not be currently considered in such a way.


Although this may sound like common sense, we often are lead to believe that we need to hear the complete story before making decisions. But making some early judgements are a basis to test the thinking with various stakeholders by then initiating a dialogue with those stakeholders. Testing these ideas through discussions and interviews not only provides a reality check but also enriches them through diverse perspectives. It’s a form of collaborative refinement that ensures the evolving strategy is rooted in collective intelligence.


In a recent customer engagement, I identified early on that a core bespoke system that is developed internally has been considered a competitive advantage for the organisation. That was true 10 years ago when they started developing the product, but since then, far superior off-the-shelf applications exist in the market and their true competitive advantage is the customer experience on their digital channels. I tested this early with the key decision makers, and it took my fresh eyes to get them to appreciate that they are over investing in developing something, that they could simply buy. This hypothesis was later verified and dramatically shifted the overall technology strategy.


This process isn’t about waiting for a complete picture before taking the first step, but about letting the initial hypotheses guide the initial strides. It’s about being in a perpetual state of learning and adaptation, where each interaction, each feedback, contributes to the evolving image of the organisation's digital strategy.


In conclusion, the initial phase of a CIO’s journey is rich with potential. It holds the promise of fresh perspectives and the beginning of a dialogue that will shape the digital narrative of the organisation. The new CIO needs to embrace these ideas, and continue and share to evaluate them as they formulate the overall strategy.

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