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10:49 AM
Jim Ditmore
Jim Ditmore

Start 2012 Like You Have A New Job

CIOs and IT leaders should take a first 90 days mindset to start the year on the right track. Define a clear vision, get connected, and inspect.

-- Use these connection sessions to define both near-term actions and longer-term goals that delineate your vision. Write up your findings, reach out to some of your peers for further review and refinement, and validate them with your boss. Have the senior members of your team assist in crafting further details.

In addition to connecting to understand the landscape, you must also inspect--make sure that the fundamentals are in place, the big things are getting done, and you have a full view of the major risks and threats. I recommend the following regimen:

-- Review the top three to five initiatives.

-- Review the key production practices (change, incident).

-- Review the key business systems and understand upcoming releases, costs, security and quality practices, and outstanding issues.

-- Tour the command center and data center.

-- Walk through the project methodology and several small to midsize projects.

-- Check out how new employees get technology--is it effective?

-- Go to a branch or retail store. Visit a call center. See how the business is using your technology and learn their view of it.

-- Walk through a new account opening or product introduction process. This is often where there's sand in the gears.

In each of these reviews, include people who report directly to those at the line level doing the work. Have an open review session with this mixed group in order to get unfiltered information. Use this clearer view to identify the additional obstacles or needs that must be addressed to meet the vision and goals you have set out.

Just as important, use this data to identify what to stop doing. Which reports aren't needed? Which processes can be streamlined? Which IT hobbies should be stopped? How many labs does your team have or how many third-party fishing expeditions are being funded that don't address core business goals and issues? Part of being a great IT leader is discerning what should not be done. Don't just add to people's workloads.

As you're wrapping up your reviews, turn your attention to IT and risk governance. By now, you should have a clear perspective on where the problem areas are and where processes must be streamlined. Adjust IT governance with an eye toward ensuring problem areas (especially those associated with endemic quality issues) have ongoing oversight. And streamline the governance to match updated processes. Finally, review all governance for clear accountability.

Spend time observing your team and identifying weaknesses. While you can understand that everyone will have an excuse for why some problems weren't addressed previously, you will need to ascertain if they were really hamstrung or are just not effective leaders. Be careful about doing a wholesale replacement or just bringing in people who were loyal to you before. An outstanding leader is someone who can build another world-class team with a new set of team members. One of the greatest coaches in NFL history, Joe Gibbs, won the Super Bowl three times with three different quarterbacks.

Begin to address personnel weaknesses either by coaching and developing those people, or by bring in new or supplementary talent. This process will carry on after the first 90 days--you're never done here--but you need to get off to a good start.

So define a clear vision, get connected, and inspect. And you will be off to a great start in your new role or for the rest of 2012.

Jim Ditmore, the former CIO of Barclays Global Retail Bank, has worked in IT for more than 25 years and as a CIO or CTO for the last 15 years. You can read more about Jim's views on IT at Recipes for IT.

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