Business Intelligence

Top 10 guidance tips for new CIOs and IT leaders

Having almost reached the midpoint of his first 100 days in a new CIO position, Isaac Sacolick has developed some practical strategies that will benefit anyone who's stepping into an IT leadership role.

It's been awhile since my last post. What can I say; the first 100 days of being CIO at a new job is busy. There's people to meet, the business to learn, and the technology to understand. Some things need immediate attention; others are things that can be dealt with later. It's easy to be overwhelmed.

So, almost halfway into my 100 days, I can give new CIOs some advice. This goes beyond building the 100 day plan, which I think is critical to stay focused. This is my practical guidance for CIOs, but also for anyone taking a new senior technology leadership position.

This article is a reprint of an entry in Isaac Sacolick's blog. It's also available as a PDF download.

1: Ask lots of questions

The advantage of being the new guy is that people should expect it. I've been very fortunate in this new position and everyone's been a good sport. Questions not only help you build up your understanding but also may help others see things from new perspectives. Occasionally, asking questions will expose an issue, but better now than later. And sometimes asking questions will help develop a culture of dialogue and collaboration.

2: Always be prioritizing

Your time now is at a huge premium. Set your schedule, but be prepared to change it as you recognize immediate vs. short-term needs.

3: Find ways to contribute early

Some call this quick wins, but even before that, relationship building is easier when it is two way.

4: Listen

Some of the "books" on management strongly suggest setting expectations with your staff early. I think before you set structure with your team, set time to first engage, listen, and learn.

5: Slowly zero in on the priorities

I stress here on the word slowly. It means go broad and learn more before setting new priorities.

6: Understand the business cycles and key dates

When are budgets done? When are the peak sales cycles? When are deployments scheduled? On my first week, I asked my directs to send me a list of key dates. All of this will help you prioritize your time and consider the timing of new initiatives.

7: People come before process and technology

CIOs tend to think in this trio, but in the first 100 days, focus needs to be on people and relationships first, process second, and technology a distant third.

8: Be prepared to run

Move fast. You have lots to learn, stuff to do, and plans to build.

9: Look for burning platforms

If I put 100 CIOs in a room, I doubt anyone would say that everything was running well when they took the job. In addition to priorities, you have to hunt down the issues -- the ones everyone tells you about, but more important, the ones no one recognizes.

10: Leadership starts early

Don't expect to sit in the back seat even though you're the newbie. Your team, your colleagues, and your boss expect you to step up early. Will you be perceived as just the tech person, or as someone with a broader business understanding? Whether and how you participate is key to everyone's early perceptions.

Isaac Sacolick is VP of Technology, CIO at McGraw-Hill Construction and has held CIO/CTO posts at BusinessWeek, TripConnect, and PowerOne Media. Isaac is an entrepreneur and specialist in media and publishing technologies, social networking, content management, XML search technologies, web analytics, data warehousing, digital advertising, enterprise 2.0, and agile management practices. Isaac writes a blog on Social, Agile and Transformation and is a frequent speaker on leading innovation in the enterprise and agile development practices.

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