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3/13/2011
11:30 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
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Global CIO: My Farewell Column: 10 Big Things For CIOs To Think About

Your humble columnist says goodbye and thanks, and poses 10 big questions today's CIOs need to answer.

Too many companies are still burning 70% or 75% or even 80% of their IT budget on maintenance and legacy anchors, leaving precious little for growth and innovation. CIOs who fail to take very aggressive and uncompromising steps to reverse that ratio are positioning themselves as drags on the organization, as impediments to progress, and as opponents of change and innovation and new and better ways of doing things.

6) CIO As Chief Acceleration Officer If you could go into your CEO's office and promise him that you could shorten product-development times, reduce days-of-inventory turns, accelerate deliveries to customers, cut or eliminate the wait-times customers endure on your support lines, and shorten your order-to-cash cycle, is there a CEO on planet Earth who wouldn't idolize you? So why not embrace that as a new mission for your IT organization and think of what you do as being the Chief Acceleration Officer who leads the company's efforts to do everything it does not just better but faster? Give the gift of speed, and see if anyone in your company or among your customers wants to return it.

7) Spend More Time With Customers I know, I know, your schedule's too tight to spend time with customers. Or you plan to do some of that next quarter or later this year. Or maybe you think it's not your job—that all that customer stuff is the responsibility of the sales organization. But unless you as CIO immerse yourself among your customers and feel their problems and their challenges and see their breakthroughs and their miracles, how can you know which IT strategies to advocate most aggressively? In the absence of that first-hand knowledge, aren't you then just relying on hearsay? And don't you then relegate yourself to being a follower who has to rely on what other people are telling you about what's going on out in the real world, versus being a leader who KNOWS first-hand what's going on and who's superbly positioned to trigger customer-centric innovations, opportunities, and revenue?

8) Mobilize The Enterprise I haven't met many people who've overestimated the pace at which mobility technology is turning our business world upside down, or who've overestimated the impact that smartphones and tablets and embedded intelligent devices will have on how the business world operates. But I've met LOTS of people who's said that they want to wait and see, or they're not sure if it's perhaps just a fad, or they want to wait until one dominant platform emerges, or they've got other priorities and mobility and wireless just don't measure up. . . . And I think that latter group is in for a world of hurt. I would urge you all to take out your mobile strategy plan, and then greatly accelerated (by 50% or more) every project and every deadline. That will be brutal and probably just about impossible to achieve—but just think how much more brutal it'll be if your existing competitors or some newfangled upstarts rush into the gap you're left for them, and turn your marketplace on its head because you didn't think the mobile revolution was really real, or urgent, or a top-level priority.

9) Do Your Peers View IT Expenses As Investments—Or As Overhead Costs? This has nothing to do with accounting or allocations or OpEx versus CapEx. Rather, it has to do with their trust in you, and your willingness and ability to articulate your vision to them with passion and sweeping knowledge of your customers and your business and your competition. Think about it: do you present budget proposals for IT, or budget proposals for growth and innovation and greater customer engagement made possible by IT? Do you give your peers—as well as people at all levels throughout the company—reason to believe that IT can make and is making a vast difference in their ability to shine in their individual jobs, and in the company's ability to thrive and grow and stand out among competitors? Or do you give them, directly or indirectly, reason to believe that IT is some crappy thing that should probably be shipped out to some company that can't do any worse but will do so for much less money?

10) Would You Want Your Son/Daughter To Work In Your Department? Ever thought about that? And what's your answer? How much responsibility do you, personally, take for your answer? Do you feel you're just a little pawn in the great game of life, or do you step forward and take ownership for whether you organization is customer-centered, forward-looking, bold and innovative, tolerant of risk, and fearless in your approach to priorities? Are you proud of the work you and your team do every day, proud of what you're achieving, proud of the innovations you're driving, proud of the culture you're building and fostering and enhancing? Are you proud enough that you'd want your son/daughter to work in the same environment as you do each day? And if you're not—well, what changes do you feel you'd need to make to change your mind?

So that's my farewell list of things I hope you'll take some time to think about, because for all of the tumult and upheaval that IT has triggered in the past 10-15 years, I believe that the next few years will see a far greater impact as companies get closer to real-time operations with massively mobile workforces spending more time creating opportunities and less time battling through and over internal obstacles.

It will be a riotous and exhilarating and unforgettable ride, and I hope you treasure it. And I thank you from the bottom of my heart for letting me tag along for this first leg of that journey.

All the best!

Cheers,

Bob

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