Chief Ixxxxxx Officer – which are you?

I recently wrote about an opportunity to examine the role of a CIO: how a workshop with some students from ESSEC Business School had given me a welcome opportunity to think about my role wearing my CIO hat and its direction of travel.  This introspection had also been partly triggered in the days prior to the workshop  by my reading an thought provoking piece by R “Ray” Wang of Constellation Research entitled “The Four Personas of the Next Generation CIO”. I particularly liked his argument that the top CIOs will need to seamlessly integrate four personas to be high performers, namely Chief Integration Officer, Chief Infrastructure Officer, Chief Intelligence Officer and Chief Innovation Officer; that is a whole lot of chiefs!  The more I thought about his argument, the more it resonated and, somewhat annoyingly, I found it a far more elegant and succinct way of summing up the differing perspectives I had been referencing when presenting on the challenges facing CIOs today.  If you are a CIO, I suggest you need to read this material and, if you are an aspiring CIO, then doubly so.  The paper is restricted access but I also found that Ray has also posted his thinking to the Harvard Business Review Blogs and there is a neat graphic to boot:

Not all CIOs will attempt to operate all four personas solo and will look to supplement with their team members as suggested in the HBR blog post. However, this is exactly what I have been doing over the last 12 months and this simple model is actually extremely powerful when you map onto it activities, successes and failures.  I have started shamelessly referencing this model when discussing the CIO role and the challenges to help ensure I retain a balance. Partly for fun and partly as it is that time of year in Fujitsu for annual performance reviews I decided to map where I have allocated my time over the last six months by a quick/dirty review of my diary:

Now I can post-rationalize the time allocation along with the best of you.  I can give you all manner of coherent (in my mind at least) arguments for why my time has been so externally focused in the business rather than technologist mode and why when in technologist mode I have been focused on the integration space.  However, the value is in the self-review process of analysing and plotting the time allocation. What would be especially interesting is to plot in which quadrant my wins and my disappointments fall over the same period (and indeed I will be doing just that as preparation for my review, should my boss be reading!).

What this line of thought has confirmed for me is that I will be publishing an “annual report” for my function that will review our performance against objectives in the financial year just closed and set out our agenda for the coming twelve months.  We may well reflect the model above in the structure of the material but, if not, we will certainly be talking about how I and my team did against our targets in those four persona areas and how we will be jointly fulfilling all four in the coming year.  Clearly, like any good CIO, I will be balancing that future roadmap both with our corporate business imperatives and the available funding that we forecast the various business cases will generate.  If anyone has any great exemplars of such progress/performance reports that they are willing to share please feel free.

Finally I’d be failing in my declared intent to “keep it real” if I failed to cover one of the truisms of the CIO role: there is always more value you feel you should be delivering; there is never enough resource or funding to do all you know needs doing; and you will always be looking for initiatives to delight your stakeholders and user base (buying the time/space to carry out the hygiene projects without which eventually things will get terribly messy and difficult)!

Image credit © Harvard Business Publishing

Assessing IT performance

Mind the GapIt is interesting how sometimes a collection of apparently random events, articles or reports gel in your mind.  We are just in the process of finalising our revised internal IT roadmap for the next three years, with a more specific focus on what exactly we will be focusing on over the next two years and the programme portfolio for the first year.  So perhaps I was subconsciously more receptive that normal to registering content around maximising the value my team delivers to my company, how you might define high performing IT units (and their leaders!) and how that relates to the frequent use of the word “innovation” across business and IT trade press.  Regardless, I alighted upon an excellent report that was recently published by Accenture entitled “Mind The Gap“, providing insights from their third annual global research into high performance IT. A good deal of the content in this report resonated with me, in relation to my CIO role but also to conversations I’ve been having with fellow CIOs, including some of our clients.

The headline in the Computer Weekly article discussing the research was “Top UK CIOs admit their IT is behind the times”.  This was drawn from the fact that in the UK 90% of the CIOs interviewed for the research said that their systems were not sufficiently flexible whereas 67% took the same view elsewhere in the world.  Personally I don’t think that gap is necessarily real and, if pushed, would probably argue that the UK respondents may perhaps have been more brutally honest.  One gap that is clearly apparent from the research is that the gulf between the highest performers and the others is widening from one year to the next.  Now, no CIO wants to be towards the back of the pack so that certainly got my attention and prompted me to download the full report – and I’d recommend that you do too as is very interesting reading.

In the Accenture model they measure IT performance across three primary areas: IT Execution; IT Agility; and IT Innovation.  I thought these were excellent prompts for me in reviewing my strategy and the programme portfolio we are planning to execute.  Now we all have our trials and tribulations lurking within our deployed technology base and I’m not about to bore you with a self-pitying whine on my challenges. However, legacy system maintenance and refresh challenges aside, what I did was to compare what Accenture define as attributes of high performance IT to our plans, generating a checkpoint and some insights.  In summary our plans around IT Execution stood up to scrutiny given our funding constraints (I cannot help myself from complaining!), I found some improvements points in relation to IT Agility and, somewhat depressingly, I found us reverting to a technology-centric perspective truism on IT Innovation and not business value articulation.  It was certainly a worthwhile afternoon of reflection and approach review; and I’m not saying that to be a nice Accenture alumni.

Whilst on the topic of innovation, I recently read an excellent post by Gary Hamel on his Wall Street Journal blog, entitled “Who’s Really Innovative?” Unsurprisingly, given the author, this was an entertaining and insightful article which discussed the questions many of us have grappled with – what is innovative and, whatever it is, how would I embed the generating behaviours into my company DNA?  I need to think through which of his five types of innovators relate to my company and whether we have multiple in play.   It was certainly food for thought as Fujitsu are focusing one of our Executive Discussion Evenings next February on the question “Innovation at the sharp end: how can organisations turn good ideas into bottom-line growth”.  I’ll be on stage, sharing my views on the topic, along with Matt Kingdon (CEO at !Whatif?) and Marion King (CEO at Vocalink).  Find more details of how to request a seat at Fujitsu’s Executive Discussion Evening on 9 February 2011.

Image credit: © QQ7 –