The Infrastructure and Operations Leader’s First 100 Days

November 18, 2020

Contributor: Meghan Rimol

New I&O leaders can establish a strong foundation through strategic planning, communication and action.

Brian has landed a new job as an infrastructure and operations (I&O) leader for a large, cutting-edge enterprise, where he’ll be tasked with managing the digital strategy for the I&O organization. Although he comes from a technical background, Brian was hired for his extensive business experience and focus on tangible outcomes. From his first days on the job, Brian will need to take a fundamentally different approach to I&O to drive the strategy and build the support of IT and business leadership. 

New I&O leaders need to establish a strong foundation soon into their tenure. This requires a firm grasp of stakeholder expectations, an understanding of how to deliver value, and clear communication of goals and objectives.

A new I&O leader’s first day should be all about actively listening and communicating

“The first 100 days of any new leadership role are considered the ‘honeymoon’ period,” says Katherine Lord, Vice President Analyst, Gartner. “This time is yours to formulate a course of action, make connections, and establish and communicate a personal management style. For new I&O leaders, these days are critical for improving business stakeholder perception of I&O, building trust with teams and setting the groundwork to drive needed change in the IT organization.” 

I&O leaders should take these steps in the first 100 days of a new role to set the groundwork for success.

Days -10 to 15: Prepare phase

To help maximize the value of the first week, invest time to plan before day one. Learn more about the company’s position in the market and review the job description. Read up on key I&O literature, which can provide insight on where the I&O function is heading and how the role fits into the context of digital business

This phase is also an important time for new I&O leaders to establish a strong communication framework. Prepare introductory material about yourself for peers and team members. Draft discussion guides customized for the conversations with stakeholders and staff, to occur in the first month on the job. Some sample questions include:

  • How well does our team deliver on your requirements and expectations?
  • What are our users’ perceptions of I&O (positive and negative)?
  • Who are the key contributors to your success (in IT or business operations)?

A new I&O leader’s first day should be all about actively listening and communicating. Make time to meet with both I&O and non-I&O staff, including key business stakeholders, direct reports and your direct manager.

Read more: 10 Must-Have Competencies for Infrastructure & Operations Leaders

Days 0 to 30: Assess phase

The objective of the Assess phase is to establish what is and isn’t working successfully in the current I&O organization. Gather information through semi-structured meetings to unearth areas of I&O opportunity and strength. Meet with each of your direct reports individually to further understand their roles and responsibilities for I&O products and services. 

Physically examining IT resources and infrastructure via a walk-through can also provide a snapshot into the typical culture and practices in the organization. Review records, including IT strategy and policy documents, financials, project status maps, and metrics and reporting documents to learn about past operations.

Days 15 to 45: Plan phase

During the Plan phase, transform the lessons learned during the first weeks into a blueprint for action. Using knowledge gathered from stakeholder discussions and other assessments, identify a set of business priorities for I&O. These could include resolving urgent production issues, quality and performance challenges, compliance mandates or a lack of innovation.

Choose two areas that are feasible to complete within the 100-day time frame to champion yourself

After ranking these priorities based on business impact, choose five areas for action planning. Select leads from your team to manage near-term improvements for each of these five areas. Then, choose two areas that are feasible to complete within the 100-day time frame to champion yourself that can be showcased as quick wins.

Communicate the action plan with selected stakeholders and produce a vision statement to support your work. The vision should be crisp and strategic, rather than technical. For example, “I&O will be a world-class IT function bringing a competitive advantage to the organization by enabling and improving key digital business outcomes.”

Days 30 to 80: Act phase 

The Act phase is the time to demonstrate personal leadership capabilities by delivering on initial goals. It’s also the time to provide a platform for expressing a long-term vision. Begin by communicating actionable recommendations, announcing any planned organizational adjustments and quickly imparting necessary skills. 

Then, commit to the delivery of new I&O initiatives. Be available to approve changes, add resources and remove obstacles. Obstacles could include budgetary constraints, lack of skills, lack of staffing, resistance to change and lack of commitment from team leads. Capture quantitative and qualitative results from each effort along the way.

Days 45 to 100: Measure phase

The Measure phase provides evidence that the enterprise can have confidence in their new I&O leader. It overlaps with the Act phase, providing an opportunity to adjust activities and deliverables according to feedback. 

Establish clear success criteria for each goal outlined in the Act phase, and track and review these key metrics with stakeholders. Industry best-practice frameworks, such as ITIL and COBIT, can help I&O leaders track appropriate metrics. Highlight early wins and assess areas for improvement, adjusting actions accordingly. 

Following this blueprint for the first 100 days in a new role will ensure success for I&O leaders, helping to instill confidence in stakeholders, peers and direct reports. By effectively planning and delivering on promised outcomes, new I&O leaders can make an impact in their first weeks on the job and beyond. 

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