The First Thing A CIO Should Do (Actually, The First 10 Things)

Hint: They have to do with assigning, creating, grabbing, launching, firing, hiring, crafting, mandating -- and singing a song from "The Wizard of Oz."

Bob Evans, Contributor

August 16, 2007

5 Min Read

Hint: They have to do with assigning, creating, grabbing, launching, firing, hiring, crafting, mandating -- and singing a song from "The Wizard of Oz."CIOs Uncensored blogger-in-chief John Soat recently asked an excellent question: "What's The First Thing A CIO Should Do?" Readers have responded with some great ideas, and at the risk of grossly diluting that otherwise high-quality discussion, I thought I'd offer a list of not just the first but rather the first 10 things I'd do if I were CIO for a day, which we originally posted several weeks ago.

In the song "If I Were the King of the Forest" from The Wizard of Oz, the Cowardly Lion promises that "As I'd click my heel, all the trees would kneel. And the mountains bow and the bulls kowtow." While I surely can't match such regal and grand aspirations, here's my Top 10 List of what I'd do if I were CIO for a day.

1) Since many companies still burn about 70% to 75% of their business-technology budgets on maintenance issues, I'd assign the very best person in my organization to come up with a plan to slay that legacy monster by cutting that percentage down to 40% in 18 months. And I'd get the CEO's guarantee that this top lieutenant and I would have almost unlimited power to make whatever changes are necessary to achieve that goal.

2) I would promise to fire anyone in the organization who ever uses the beat-to-death and outdated cliche of "We need to align IT with the business." Any company that hasn't done that by now has one foot in the grave. The new mission has to be, "We need to align our business technology with our customers" because without that capability, all we will do is replicate our past instead of creating our future. And that forward-looking vision is essential for any and all CIOs, whose acronymic title here in 2007 is much more about being Chief Innovation Officer rather than Chief Information Officer.

3) Since many companies know that they spend a lot of money on business technology but few companies know exactly how much they're spending on what projects, I'd assign one of my top people to create a Project Management Excellence center charged with (a) creating a list of the 10 truly strategic projects, (b) drawing up a list of 15 projects with the next-highest priorities, and (c) sharing those lists with the CEO and all LOB heads, along with a reminder that they'll need to fund 100% of any other projects they'd like to initiate. And I'd ask the person heading up this initiative to begin the effort by speaking with Primavera Systems CEO Joel Koppelman, who understands these critical issues about as well as anyone.

4) I'd grab the earliest open date on the calendar of Professor CK Prahalad and use that time with one of the world's foremost strategists on business and technology to have him share ideas and insights about business innovation, customer engagement, and business technology with the CEO, CFO, LOB heads, and me.

5) I'd launch a Need For Speed initiative within each line of business, with the goal being to use business technology and enhanced processes to reduce latency by 25% or more in all interactions with customers and suppliers. And to achieve that in six months. And to promise to cut another 25% in the following six months.

6) I'd review how everyone in my organization is compensated, and for everyone under the VP level, I'd tie 50% of all nonsalary compensation to company revenue and profit. For those at VP level and above, I'd do the same and also tie the other 50% of nonsalary comp to #1 above: obliterating the legacy monster.

7) For everyone at the manager level and above, I'd mandate that they spend at least 33% more time with customers in the coming 12 months as they did in the past 12. Anyone who had spent no time with customers in the past year would be fired.

8) I'd create an organization-wide blog called "Creating Customer Value" and require twice-weekly postings by department managers to share stories of what specific steps their teams are taking -- day after day -- to get out of the internal rat-race and engage with and create value for customers. The blog would be open to everyone in the company, would feature twice-monthly postings by the CEO, and would be open to top customers as well.

9) I'd hire 25 college students from various disciplines as interns with the express purpose of observing how they interact with technology and, in turn, how that interaction shapes their impressions toward entertainment, education, evaluating and making purchases, communication, decision-making, and more. To fund these in-house visions of the future, I'd slash or altogether eliminate a sacred-cow project or process whose usefulness had run its course 3 years ago (and please don't try to say your company doesn't have anything like that).

10) I would make it my own personal crusade to craft an enterprise-wide mobile strategy guaranteed to deliver (a) greater engagement with customers, (b) more real-time information to allow for better, faster decision-making, (c) more-responsive supply chains, and (d) new opportunities for creating new revenue streams and greater value for customers. And as part of my research, I'd look very closely at this recent blog post from David Levin, the CEO of InformationWeek's parent corporation and former CEO of mobile-software maker Symbian Ltd.

About the Author(s)

Bob Evans


Bob Evans is senior VP, communications, for Oracle Corp. He is a former InformationWeek editor.

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