Help New CIOs Succeed

Simple steps IT leaders can take to make their CIO’s first 100 days a success.

The average turnover rate for chief information officers (CIOs) is 4 – 5 years, which loosely translates into the need for senior IT staff to plan for their new technology leader every 3 – 4 years. Despite being able to anticipate this kind of event, many IT organizations often take a “wait and see” approach and lack the forethought to properly set the new CIO’s expectations for all things strategy, culture, performance and ways of doing business. In today’s digital business world, it is imperative that existing IT leaders are prepared to transition critical operations to their new CIO as soon as he or she walks through the door.

IT leaders should create and follow a CIO orientation guide to set themselves and their future CIO up for early success

Darren Topham, research director at Gartner, says “IT leaders must aim to make their CIO’s first 100 days a win-win situation by helping them to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the IT organization.” To do so, IT leaders should create and follow a CIO orientation guide to set themselves and their future CIO up for early success and strong engagement, and avoid disruptions during the transitional period.

Summary of IT operating model

It is key for a new CIO to understand how an organization orchestrates its IT capabilities to achieve its strategic objectives — essentially “how things get done” within the IT operating framework of nine specific elements:

  1. Performance
  2. Decision rights
  3. Financials
  4. Organizational structure
  5. Sourcing and alliances
  6. Talent
  7. Ways of working
  8. Tools
  9. Places

Provide a summary of the activity and status for each of these nine components, but avoid too much operational detail at this stage. That will come as the new CIO takes a deeper look at each area.

Existing culture and governance

Help the CIO understand the current culture so that he or she can get a firm grasp on the organization’s attitudes, beliefs and customs.

“Providing a new CIO with clear information on the organization’s culture will enable him or her to judge the organization’s openness (or resistance) to upcoming activities or initiatives,” says Topham. “Formal and informal guiding principles will ensure processes are being carried out in a proper manner, especially when handling situations with various organizational stakeholders.”

Senior IT staff should have ready a completed orientation guide to present to their new leader on day one

It is likely a new CIO will have already seen the basic IT strategy, if one exists. Focus on the key strategic objectives and aspirations for the future of the IT organization, and how they link to the enterprise wide strategy. Outline how each objective is measured and why it was chosen as a priority.  

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Ongoing activities and commitment

The final area for senior IT leaders to cover is a tactical update on IT’s current and near-future commitments. This will help the CIO to understand the upcoming activities on which he or she should focus. Awareness of items such as audits or inspection reports is important, especially if they take place during the CIO’s first 100 days.

“There is no question that as technology increasingly influences business operations, the role of the CIO will continue to grow in both responsibility share and in importance,” says Topham. “To minimize the usual challenges and disruptions that accompany most executive transitions, senior IT staff should have ready a completed orientation guide to present to their new leader on day one.”

Gartner clients can read more in the report How to Prepare for the New CIO’s Arrival by Darren Topham, et al.

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