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Three steps to CIO success

/ 24 May, 2015

New CIOs must be ready to go live on day one, learning the company’s agenda and positioning themselves as architects of innovation, says Diana Bersohn, Managing Director, IT Strategy and Transformation, Accenture. stairs success

New CIOs have about 90 to 120 days to make their mark on an organisation. The transition also creates a tremendous opportunity for CIOs.

But it is not an easy task. The lines of demarcation in companies are blurring. New CIOs must read between the lines – between industries, customers and product developers – as they move swiftly to learn the business, find their niche and make an impact on the enterprise. Speed – or multiple speeds in the world of IT, given legacy systems and the arrival of digital – is the focus as digital drives the rate of innovation and business leaders’ expectations.

But new CIOs are not the sole masters of their enterprise’s technology. As reported in the Accenture 2015 Technology Vision, only 34 percent of executives expect the IT organisation to be the main generator of innovation in the next two years, down from 71 percent just two years ago.
That compounds the challenges faced by new CIOs who walk into the job fully aware that the average tenure of a CIO tends to be shorter than that of their other C-suite colleagues. Still, the opportunities are great for those CIOs who heed four imperatives.

1. Know how digital demand affects every area of the business

To technology and business strategies intertwine, successful CIOs ground themselves in the business strategy, challenges, financials and trends. They familiarise themselves with industry dynamics, gaining an understanding of how the company’s partners and competitors use technology to drive their digital agendas.
A metrics-driven plan sets markers that allow the IT organisation to show tangible progress towards the future digital state vision. For example, one CIO embarked upon a multiyear transformation to modernize their company’s application architecture and migrated to a shared services operating model to increase efficiency, using metrics that would allow him to demonstrate progress at each “value drop” throughout the program.

2. Embrace the ‘we economy’

As leading organisations adopt a ‘we economy’ that taps into digital business, customers and networks to shape experiences and outcomes in new ways, CIOs would be well advised to do the same across the enterprise.
That means working collaboratively across departments, identifying tech-savvy executives in finance, marketing, sales or research & development, etc. to forge alliances with executives who they can work with to propel the company’s digital transformation forward. To do so, they will need to show real business chops – converse about the business and the vision for it.
The conversation also should move beyond optimising costs and streamlining processes to drive innovation and top-line growth.
While CIOs are known for their IT prowess, they also need superb communication skills. CIOs must listen astutely and convey complex digital concepts to energise internal stakeholders and build support for their views.

3. Rally the whole IT team to support their IT agenda

Within a couple of months, a new CIO should have a clear picture of their team’s talent and where capability gaps exist. A successful CIO will act promptly and decisively to make changes, and recruit new talent and ideas sooner, not later. They will shape a team that, like them, is conversant in the business as well as technology.
Doing so may involve training, rewarding team members to take measured risks and experiment sensibly as they change the IT culture as well as investing in new career tracks. Creating the dream team also may require looking beyond their organisation to create a network of talent.
However daunting the challenges seem, new CIOs who rise to meet them and quickly learn the company’s agenda, positioning themselves as architects of innovation, can make a significant and sustainable impact on their enterprise. To do so, they will want to embrace the ‘we economy’ and build a team of digital dynamos who can support them as they move along the path to success.
Diana Bersohn is a managing director in Accenture Strategy, which operates at the intersection of business and technology. Accenture Strategy brings its capabilities together in business, technology, operations and function strategy to help its clients envision and execute industry-specific strategies that support enterprise wide transformation.