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Four Steps To CIO Effectiveness

Here's an action plan for business technology executives at risk of losing their clout.
How do CIOs maintain their hard-earned status as strategic leaders amid the grind of PC and software upgrades, SOX must-dos, and server consolidation? Following is a four-step plan to staying relevant.

STREAMLINE everything you do, including processes outside the IT department. Most CIOs have been through this exercise before, but go back and do it again. Ask yourself: Where would an independent consultant find inefficiencies in how we do things? Don't wait for someone else to do this. "The idea that the CIO is the guy who should be relentless about squeezing the operations, making the IT shop more efficient, and applying those efficiencies to hone the business, that's not going away," says Mike McClaskey, CIO and VP of infrastructure solutions for Perot Systems.

OFF-LOAD the grunt work. That means freeing up not only the CIO's time, but also that of the rest of the IT organization to work on improving the business, not just keeping the servers running. Whether it's through contracting, outsourcing, or fully exploiting automation tools, find ways to add value beyond data center efficiency.

REINVEST freed-up resources back into new initiatives, especially those that drive revenue. "If you mention improving the software development life cycle to the CEO, he's going to start yawning," says Rick Rusin, CIO for Rotella Capital. On the other hand, if the CEO wants to launch a new investment fund, and the CIO is able to demonstrate that a better software development process can expedite not only one new fund, but many, that's a way to get the CEO's attention. "He's going to sit up and listen," says Rusin.

INNOVATE. Having taken the first three steps, you're back to innovating again. Apply the lessons learned through years of cost cutting and all those oversold and overblown IT projects. Even for business technology executives with limited resources, technologies such as wikis, blogs, and no-cost online applications offer ways to work differently without increasing head count or budgets.

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