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The New 24-Hour, Always-On Thinking

Technologists tend not to get to the point, and CIOs sometimes have difficulty making decisions. But when you move to a real-time, 24-hour environment, you often have to be less analytical and make decisions based on your best information and gut instinct. In business, every decision you don't make today compounds itself; it will mutate into five decisions next week and 10 the week after that.

The same goes for the CEO and CFO, of course, but the difference is that they've been trained to think intuitively, while CIOs usually are analytical. Except in the more forward-thinking companies with advanced CIOs, the business-side CXOs make the major decisions. CIOs have to get used to the fact that they won't be asked to make decisions if they require 100% of the information. You must get on with it and take calculated risks. Analytical people like to concentrate on technical details, but you must focus on the important differentiators.

It helps in this 24-hour, always-on business world to remember four key points:

  • CIOs must balance creating strategy and tactical implementation.

  • CIOs must set a vision and anticipate issues before they appear; I'm known for thinking years into the future and forecasting the environment.

  • Communication is key. Everyone must understand both the vision and plan of implementation.

  • The company's governance model must enable co-leadership and decision making.

Here's some further insight that has helped General Motors succeed in a 24-hour environment: Our IT executives serve on the advisory boards of numerous technology companies, where they explicate GM's needs and gain early understanding of the vendors' road maps. In fact, we participate in creating their innovation road maps.

We also participate in many standards consortia. That gives us insight into how our company--and its people--will have to evolve with technology, and we can have a say in how the technologies will empower the company. Partnerships like these are very important in anticipating the future world.

Ralph Szygenda is CIO and group VP at General Motors Corp. His column appears bimonthly in Optimize. To read the full text of this column, go to

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Lessons In Leadership
For CIOs, increasing business knowledge and improving communication with the corporate side of their companies continue to be top-of-mind concerns. Read what best-selling author Jim Collins says about the different levels of leadership; how renowned speaker and psychiatrist Carl Hammerschlag suggests CIOs tackle the ever-widening information superhighway; and why it's critical for Boeing CIO Scott Griffin to merge technology responsibilities with business-value generation.

Power Shift
Optimize magazine surveyed 600 CXOs to assess their changing responsibilities. The results confirm that CIOs are having a significant effect on the success of their companies. While 58% of CIO respondents report directly to the CEO, the top three areas of expertise that CXOs believe make for an effective CIO are technology leadership, corporate strategist and business innovator. Read more of the results from this exclusive report.

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