5 Keys to CIO Success: Keys or Challenges?

CIO Success Factors

What really defines a successful CIO?  Ask this question, and you will get a wide variety of answers.   If you really get down to it, the keys to success are also core challenges, and all revolve around the core problems that CIOs face on a daily basis.  Below is a quick list:

Connecting Silos – Ah, the silos of the Enterprise.  In the evolution of an organization, systems come and systems go, but as time goes on, we usually build a complex web that is the foundation of our business.  A while back I was at an event, and on stage were the CIOs of Cisco, Netflix and several other high visibility organizations.  A question was posed around identifying one of their biggest challenges, and just about all included the constant quest to connect systems, and create cross-silo applications that can share and exchange data.  To do this well, and with little or no code, is a key to success, and a constant source of pain.

User Empowerment – Creating a technical infrastructure that empowers users, and provides a strong self-service theme is critical.  User empowerment is focused on giving users access to applications, interfaces and timely information that drive productivity and improve personal efficiency.   In this realm, transparency is key, and the complex inner workings need to be absolutely hidden from the end-user.  There are many facets to user empowerment, and in today’s world, it is usually tied to intelligent forms/dashboards that combine information from multiple systems, and provide a centralized interface for completing business tasks, making informed decisions and disseminating business data.

On Time Delivery – How do you deliver applications/projects on time, and meet expectations?  Today this conversation usually revolves around the Buy vs. Build (BvB) topic, and the ability to finish projects quickly with a high degree of quality, and little or no technical debt.  Unfortunately, the BvB topic is typically a political earthquake, with the CIO at the epicenter, trying to balance the errors of the past, current investment and the livelihood of developers, consultants and contractors.  Many CIOs today are choosing powerful Business App platforms that can get a dev team 70-100% complete through no code design (Of course I am partial to K2’s Business Application Platform 😉 ). Here is a great video with a side by side comparison of coding versus using an app platform:

Creating Business Efficiency – Doing more with less is a constant theme in today’s world, and technology is a key driver of overall efficiency.  But identifying key areas for improvement is usually a big challenge, with constant pull from all departments.  Priority and focus are key, and with only so many hours in the day, where do you assign resources for the biggest impact?  I would argue the elimination of paper and physical process is the lowest hanging fruit, and more can be found on the topic in these posts:  The Catalyst for the Paperless Office and Paperless Strategy.  Drive business efficiency, and the organization is more competitive, gets the most out of its employees and will improve its profitability.

Automation – A while back, in a previous life, I worked at mid-sized company that was touted for its document automation expertise.  While waiting near the front desk, I watched a process that blew my mind.  The front desk person, I will call her June, had a stack of hundreds of checks that had come in that morning.  She would take a single check, key the information into the finance system, and then walk over to the copier, put the check on the glass, and make a copy.  I watched her do this for 15 minutes, over and over.  When I told her we can automate that whole process with a check scanner, she just smiled, said “That’s just how we do it,” and kept on her task at hand.  Automation as a key focus for a CIO is not just about technology, but really about the people and change.  Laying the right technical ground work is only half the battle, as user training, adoption and comfort is key to success.  I place automation at the bottom of this article because it is an underlying theme for every other key focus.  Using tech to automate tasks creates efficiency, empowers users, helps to connect silos and will help in the on time delivery of all types of projects.

What do you think?  Comments?