How? The CIO must understand the business -- and demonstrate the ability to make difficult business decisions -- as well as anyone else in the organization. This means the CIO must know the company's products and services, profit drivers, competition and organizational dynamics. The CIO needs to develop a technology vision based on the company's business vision. Applying clear metrics to the vision makes it real and provides direction to the IT organization.
Strategy and execution
An IT strategy is not the same as data center consolidation or some other technology-based plan. An IT strategy is about enabling top-line revenue generation, margin improvement and customer service excellence. Data center consolidation can be a component of the strategy but not the driver.
A strategy grounded in a business-oriented vision provides direction and motivation to the entire IT organization. Strategy is not enough, however. A strategy is only as good as the execution capability of the organization and the key to execution is facing reality.
Confronting the facts of an organization's current situation distinguishes great executives from merely good ones. While strategy provides focus and simplicity, sound execution requires the ability and wherewithal to address the hard facts about an organization's existing conditions.
An accurate assessment of circumstances, such as the organization's capacity to execute on projects, serves as a frame of reference for all decisions. Great executives consistently make successful decisions based on an honest assessment of the status quo.
Leadership is as much about posing questions as seeking answers. It's about encouraging dialogue and debate, building mechanisms to raise red flags early, and learning from mistakes. Such abilities require discipline, attention to detail, and a structure for addressing issues and managing risk.
A governance framework that includes substantive reviews for assessing project delivery risk focuses on signs that warn of trouble. For example, dependencies -- especially nested ones from more than one degree of separation -- can ruin a project. A project can be running completely on schedule, but if not tracked well, outside dependencies can derail it significantly.
Detailed senior-level reviews lay the foundation for IT risk management. In our environment, we have implemented a rigorous review process that focuses on risk, dependencies and milestone deliverables to raise critical issues early while there is still time to take action. Threats to a project need to be understood, vetted and mitigated. Details and realistic assessment matter in execution.
IT as a business