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The New CIO’s Blueprint: The First 100 Days

Updated: Oct 23, 2023

In my career as a CIO, I found that regardless of organisation, that the most exhilarating and most challenging aspect of the role is the first 100 days. A lot is expected of the newcomer, but there is a lot to cover and understand before laying out the plan for the future. The process that is undertaken is actually quite standard, regardless of the industry, region, or challenges that lay ahead. This blog post introduces a blueprint on how to tackle the new role.

The role itself extends beyond managing IT operations. With Technology and Digital front-and-centre in any organisation, the CIO has become a critical and influential player in the executive leadership team. It intertwines deeply with the company's strategy, culture, and business goals. For a new CIO, laying a robust foundation in the initial days is pivotal. Here's a roadmap that integrates key steps with real-world insights to help streamline the journey.

Understanding the Business Strategy

A new CIO must start by understanding the business’s strategy itself. Recognizing where the company is now compared to its vision is essential. Consider the case of General Electric (GE). In the late 1990s, GE's then-CIO, Gary Reiner, played a pivotal role in integrating IT with GE's Six Sigma initiative, a strategy aimed at improving operational efficiency. The aspirations of the organisation need to be understood, documented and agreed by all stakeholders. Grasping whether the focus is on exponential growth, acquisitions, or organic growth is critical. Consider Cisco, which grew via acquisitions, versus Apple, which emphasises innovation and organic growth. This then needs to be broken down to the company's objectives. This can range from revenue targets to expansion into new markets or industries.

Hypothesise on Adapting Digital Strategy

The first impressions that a new CIO has is very important. Don’t lose sight of this, fresh eyes on any problem will typically provide a better understanding that those that are struggling to see the “forest through the trees”. The initial perceptions of IT’s role in business outcomes can shape your strategies. Document this, and use it as the starting point of the thinking that goes into designing an end-state. The process from here is validation of the initial thoughts.

Identifying Stakeholders and Their Goals

As a CIO, you’ll have a plethora of stakeholders, and it's going to be important to understand their roles and responsibilities in the ecosystem of the organisation. This is not only an aspect of organisational politics, but much more material than that. Understand the influential figures – from top management to team leaders. Satya Nadella's success at Microsoft is often attributed to his collaborative approach. Some companies hinge on their ability to operate efficiently, others in their R&D and yet others in how they can influence policy or the marketplace. All this will help shape where the priorities might lie. Through all of this, the CIO will need to maintain collaboration and eliminate any IT Silos. Promoting open channels between IT and other departments. Adobe, for instance, bridges the gap between its IT and marketing teams, leading to streamlined digital experiences for customers. On the agenda will be regular synchronisations with department heads to ensure that tech initiatives align with business objectives.

Gauging the Organisational Culture

Culture is often overstated and underrepresented, often because it's misunderstood. Being clear on the company’s desire and ability to change will help the pace of a program and how to execute. Companies like Netflix, with its culture of "freedom and responsibility," exhibit both the desire and capacity to adapt. Determine where resistance may come from, be it certain departments, teams, or legacy systems.

Assess the Tech and System Landscape

A common language to be able to discuss, debate and agree on the technology strategy and roadmap will underpin the CIO’s success. This often takes its shape in Enterprise Architecture. Not all systems hold equal importance. For one company, an ERP might be essential, while for another, the CRM takes precedence. Redundant systems can drain resources. Companies like Dell have saved millions by streamlining and consolidating their software landscape. Systems like old mainframes might hinder change. Consider how JPMorgan has been methodically replacing legacy systems to enhance agility. Using tools and frameworks derived from Enterprise Architecture practices to map out the technological blueprint is the language that is best used in this domain. Determine what’s working and what isn’t. Does your e-commerce platform perform as expected? Are your analytics tools giving actionable insights?

Craft a Digital Strategy Roadmap

At this point it's time to identify the key pillars for the technology roadmap. I typically like to drive this from a series of recommendations, grouped into themes. The themes can include topics like “getting the basics tight”, “focus on being more secure”, or “innovating out of the legacy”. They will be informed by your recommendations and each will have a roadmap. It's always powerful to have one or two anchor points to your strategy. For example, a Data Strategy may drive other themes such as retiring legacy, strengthening digital or driving AI. Therefore it becomes an underpinning enabler to realising the overall strategy. All of this needs to have foundations in the principles that drove these decisions in the first place. Principles that decide when to build vs buy, Microsoft or Open Source, Insource or Partner and so on. Understand which technologies give you a competitive edge and which are just utilities. The prioritisation of initiatives will also need to occur. Address initiatives that offer tangible business benefits. Google's focus on mobile-first indexing stemmed from recognizing the shift in user behaviour towards mobile browsing. The mechanics in how it will all come together is in the Operating Model and People Strategy. Invest in training and resources to tie this all together and deliver it through an intentional Change Management Program.

To sum up, the initial days of a CIO are about amalgamating business vision with technology, fostering collaboration, and prioritising impactful changes. It’s about orchestrating a symphony where tech plays in harmony with business goals, culture, and people.


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