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CIO – The Corporate Psychic
25 September 2014

Where do you keep your crystal ball?

Technology has changed so rapidly over several decades it would certainly be useful to have a crystal ball or personal psychic to predict what is going to happen.

Without either of those things, it is always going to be an educated guess to predict next steps.  Educated is the key word and to be educated you need to do your homework.

Robert Plant an associate professor of computer information systems wrote for the HBR Blog Network with strategies onhow to make the best of the “psychic” role and do a better job of seeing the future.



Top of the list is don’t follow the herd.  Don’t rely on the one consulting firm to do all the research and provide advice, broaden your outlook, and attend a variety of events and specialised trade shows and conferences.  He suggests “events such as TED and the BIL conference where innovators, thought leaders, and entrepreneurs congregate can be mind-bending.”

Plant also advises “CIOs should mingle with vendors, customers, users, technologists, regulators, venture capitalists, and academics.  Better still, they should do this while overseas.  An Asian view of technology, for example, may reveal ideas and trends that haven’t migrated across the seas yet.”

Choose your divining rod carefully.  Well you also be clever where you look for the water source!  White papers offered for free by vendors and research firms are probably heavily disguised advertisements with the crunch part missing. That is why they are free.  Academic research is usually written for other academics and the level of detail is not for the uninitiated, which means significant work to achieve a coherent vision of the future.

Think carefully before crossing anyone’s palm with silver.  Consultants will gladly sign on as a CIO’s personal psychic, but becoming a true believer is a risky strategy.  It’s natural for advisers to hedge rather than deliver bad news or make specific predictions that may not come to pass.  After all, advisers, like psychics, are primarily focused on maintaining the relationship.  That’s why so many advisers prefer to make generic statements that are open to interpretation.

Rather, CIOs should consider creating a think tank within their organisation varying the participants who should be encouraged to go to non-traditional conferences, listen to webcasts, and develop position papers.  A CIO should do his own reading, generate his own thoughts on what is important, and create his own vision of the future.  Make the time to read and do research.  One CIO created a “device-free” half hour each day where he ignored all communication so he could read and think.  Another hired an assistant just to handle emails.

Eric Berridge on Computerworld talks about “unifying the psychic elements” in relation to a specific example – Customer Engagement using the raw elements of a crystal ball which  most companies already have in place:

  • Marketing automation provides a profile of past interaction and demographics
  • Social media tools offer a real-time look at personal interests, opinions and activities
  • CRM gives a history of their relationship with your organization

Used together they provide a comprehensive view of the customer that can be used to create highly personalized and predictive marketing and sales approaches.

So the tools to be psychic can already be in-house.  The trick for the CIO is identifying the tools, integrating the tools and consolidating the information being gathered.

Rather than be a psychic keep an open mind and be a forward thinker.

Leadership skills driving results
18 September 2014

Leadership + Teamwork = Success

According to “The CIO Edge: Seven Leadership Skills You Need to Drive Results” by Graham Waller, George Hallenbeck, and Karen Rubenstrunk forging good working relationships with everyone involved in an IT-enabled project is the ultimate key to success.  The book is based on extensive research and interviews with CIOs from a number of large organisations including FedEx, P&G and AXA.

A number of earlier articles such as “Buy-in Not Drop Out” stress communication and relationships as critical aspects determining the success or failure of projects, strategies and possibly a company’s goals.  Of course technological smarts and business acumen are also assets.

blog post

Great leaders know they cannot be everything, be everywhere and they know everyone has a part to play if goals are to be achieved.  The book lists the ability to inspire others, connect with a diverse array of stakeholders, value others’ ideas, and manifest caring in their relationships as among those seven essential skills which yield the best results.

The complete list of skills in “The CIO Edge” is –

1. Commit to Leadership First and Everything Else Second.  Don’t be a micro manager, focus on the “big picture” and trust your team to deliver a successful outcome.  But don’t be remote, great leaders move amongst their team.  To lead you must be visible.

2. Lead Differently than You Think.  Acting collaboratively – gathering ideas, seeking opinions – in addition to relying on their own creative and analytical skills will bring about the best possible solution.

3. Embrace Your Softer Side.  We don’t normally associate a softer side with leaders, at least not in Hollywood!  But it is the leader who has empathy who is seen as approachable who will be the most effective.  Create connections with your team and with colleagues, you never know when you might need them.  People won’t be inspired by someone they feel they don’t know.

4. Forge the Right Relationships to Drive the Right Results.  The right relationships can be found at all levels.  Above and below but it is the horizontal relationships both internal and external with your peers, suppliers and customers which will form the platform for success and time must be spent in developing and nurturing these relationships.

5. Master Communication.  Realise that as a leader you are more visible, use the visibility to reinforce messages and values.  Be consistent, authentic, clear and passionate about your messages and values so they are not only understood but felt, it will drive people to take the right actions.

6. Inspire Others.  Most of us work harder and better when we are inspired.  The inspiration may be a message or a person and when we are inspired by a person and their message, it is a powerful situation.  The best CIOs provide a compelling vision connecting people to how their enterprise wins in the marketplace and acknowledges their contributions as meaningful and valued.

7. Build People, Not Systems.  You will only ever be as good as the team around you.  By developing good people all around them, CIOs increase their capability and capacity to deliver results.  It is also about nurturing the next generation of leaders.  It is the best thing they can do for the organization—it will be their lasting legacy.

The payoff for developing these skills?  As the authors show, you’ll work smarter, not harder– and get promoted far faster than your peers.

Buy-in Not Drop-out
4 September 2014

elevator #1

The Ultimate Elevator Pitch

For any project, proposal or plan to work, you must have stakeholders buy-in.  Then the trick is to keep them engaged during the whole process.  As the CIO you will be the salesperson, the tech-person, the strategist and a politician.

Stakeholders are just that – they may be involved in the process, they may benefit from the outcome, or may be adversely effected if the plan or process isn’t put into action. They may be directly involved or be on the side-lines. So know who the stakeholders are and the how/why they are a stakeholder. They are at all levels of the food chain, not just the C-Suite. Think of a beehive, if it doesn’t have the worker bees it wouldn’t function.

You also need to ensure your stakeholders last the distance, your pitch needs to outline roles and their level of involvement at all stages – planning, execution and evaluation.

Technology, a change in technology is not the easiest sell and it is one which must be the clearest. The proposal should be understood by a broad audience, while there will necessarily be technicalities included, summary statements explaining them will help the uninitiated.  Remember even now, every organisation will have its “techno-phobes”.

Define project goals and the scope clearly. There should be a clear understanding of why the project is required. Include background information about the current situation, the project drivers, the challenges and what the identified benefit would be. Any proposal should always have the overall strategy and goals of the company put into the context.

Keep the proposal shorter, if it is too wordy, you will lose most of the audience. Graphs, images and white space all assist with readability.

All organisational areas which will benefit from the proposal should be mentioned and the benefits stated, we all like to think there is something in it for us.

Find your disciples, your advocates early in the process, have them pave the way, sow the seeds of change if necessary. Again this should be on various levels for it to be effective. The more influence they have on their peers the better.

Each proposal will have a downside, maybe more, don’t hide them, they will always come back to bite. State them and counter it with a benefit, think of contingencies. If you can demonstrate the downsides have been carefully considered, the impact will be much less. Transparency is critical.

Have solid verifiable facts in your pitch but don’t present impressive, positive facts in a dry fashion give them pizzazz, flair and make them memorable – graphics are great. We all like to hear good news and take away a positive outlook.

This is where social media can come in to its own – use these options to keep everyone informed and involved, build a community mentality and encourage comment and contribution.  Don’t shy away from asking for advice, it is unlikely we know everything and the advice given is an investment in the proposal and true buy-in.

The whole process must be democratic, while everyone may not in reality be on an equal footing, it must appear to be that way. The proposal should not leave any stakeholders with the impression they have been railroaded, that it is something imposed by management without consideration for operational levels.

Technical know-how alone will not ensure success. For the CIO in particular, being multi-facetted is essential. Part salesperson, researcher, communicator and politician are all necessary, so keep those hats right where you can see them.