Edelman CIO Shares His 90-Day Game Plan

Any IT leader looking to re-energize or re-evaluate a team can adapt the plan CIO Denis Edwards used to start his new job.

Chris Murphy, Editor, InformationWeek

May 31, 2013

5 Min Read

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Denis Edwards said he needed an afternoon cup of coffee, but he was unmistakably energized. He was less than four months into a new job, as CIO of global public relations firm Edelman, after having spent four years as CIO of $20 billion-a-year staffing company Manpower. We sat down at a Starbucks to talk about the plan he laid out for his first 90 days as Edelman CIO.

While most of you aren't starting a new job, any IT leader looking to re-energize or re-evaluate his or her team can adapt Edwards' 90-day plan. Or, you can apply a variation of it as a personal business plan. Edwards looked at his first 90 days in three segments.

The First 30 Days: Learning

The first month he describes as "100% learning," with one focus: How do we make money and how can IT support that? Edwards did the kind of meetings you'd expect, with business unit executives, the IT leadership team and IT staffers. But he also relied on data, tapping in-house researchers to craft a survey on IT's position in the company. Some 5,500 surveys went out to employees, and 30% responded.

[ Do your employees seem restless? Read 3 Warning Signs Your IT Team Is Job Hunting. ]

These new beginnings are precious time. Any new employee wants to make a good impression and have an impact quickly. But newbies also bring a fresh set of eyes to an operation. Whenever we hire people at InformationWeek, I tell them they have about two weeks to tell us the crazy things we're doing, because they'll be assimilated into our insanity and lose their fresh perspective very quickly.

The toughest part for most execs in Edwards' first 30-day segment will be the 100% learning part. Could you, the Executive Action Figure that you are, stay in learning mode and not start making changes for a full month?

The Second 30 Days: Quick Wins

In the second 30 days, Edwards focused on finding quick wins to show some impact and build goodwill. For example, he learned that certain employees didn't have the software they needed to do their jobs. "These are little things that are very important to people out there generating revenue," he said.

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Thanks to his month of learning, Edwards knew where he didn't need to spend energy: evangelizing cloud computing. During his years at Manpower, Edwards did just that, challenging developers to try cloud infrastructure for stand-up, tear-down projects and pilot tests. But Edelman's business and IT teams already are cloud believers. "They recognize we need to move at a speed that doesn't allow us to do it any other way," Edwards said.

But high-speed, tech-savvy business units can quickly lead to shadow IT, especially when the ROI of a one-off tech implementation is tied to meeting a paying client's needs. Edwards had to convince Edelman execs that discussing a project with the IT organization doesn't mean IT will take it over. "I really don't care who builds it, but let's have the conversation about how it's built and how we can leverage it in ways other than the specific engagement you're thinking about," he said.

The Final 30 Days: Budget

In the final stretch of his 90-day plan, Edwards put forth a strategic plan and a budget proposal, as his arrival coincided with a budgeting cycle. The Edelman IT organization now plans to beef up the data analytics platforms for the firm's research and digital teams, as functions such as social media monitoring take on greater importance. The plan includes upgrades to collaboration software to let teams share best practices and find employee skills across the global company. And it calls for improved mobile access to enterprise applications, particularly email. In a client-driven business, being reachable is everything. "I know we're talking about email," Edwards said, "but it's one of our most strategic applications."

Edwards tapped his PR peers to help explain the plan to employees -- not enough IT leaders think of marketing their efforts internally. And he's relying heavily on the employee survey about IT: "Here's what we're doing and why, and by the way, you asked us to do this," he said.

For all the talk about how we'll all change jobs so much more than in the past, our InformationWeek Salary Survey shows that seven out of 10 IT pros have had only one or two employers in the last 10 years. The median tenure is seven years for staffers and eight for managers.

Those long tenures mean most of us have to manufacture the kind of energy that comes with taking on a new job. Why not create a 90-day plan for you or your team to uncork some of that same open-mindedness and sense of opportunity? Let people spend time outside of their area of expertise. Force yourself and your team into learning mode with non-IT teams. Consider fielding a survey on how the business perceives IT. You just might find the grass is greener right where you are.

About the Author(s)

Chris Murphy

Editor, InformationWeek

Chris Murphy is editor of InformationWeek and co-chair of the InformationWeek Conference. He has been covering technology leadership and CIO strategy issues for InformationWeek since 1999. Before that, he was editor of the Budapest Business Journal, a business newspaper in Hungary; and a daily newspaper reporter in Michigan, where he covered everything from crime to the car industry. Murphy studied economics and journalism at Michigan State University, has an M.B.A. from the University of Virginia, and has passed the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exams.

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