On CIO Wisdom

I just finished reading CIO Wisdom – Best Practices from Silicon Valley’s Leading IT expert by Dean Lane.

This book is a collection of articles on topics of concern and relevance for not only CIOs by IT leaders at large. These articles are written by various authors, which ensures varied perspectives – based on their experiences. Topics range to include the people, process and technology aspects of the profession. To mention a few: Communications, IT Organization, Governance, Architecture, Strategic Outsourcing,  IT Infrastructure Management and Execution etc.

What sets this book apart is the breadth of topics covered in terms of applicability and importance to overall success of the IT organizations. While at a first glance the articles may seem disparate, there are a number of key themes/messages that emerge. Each topic is discussed enough to give the reader a basic and clear understanding, but given the book’s breadth, once cannot expect each topic to be covered in full depth. The later would require many volumes.

CIO Wisdom is a recommended read for any IT leader seeking to gain a broader understanding of the IT organization it’s challenges and opportunities.

Below are excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- “In each business and historical phase, the position of CIO can be seen as a mirror of the broader environment.”

2- “For many years, successful CIOs have been business strategists, capable of translating the value of technology in terms that can be understood by the business leaders of the institutions. Now that skill set is being externalized…The new CIO must be an entrepreneur, a matrix manager of teams that do not report to IT and may not even belong to the company, an architect and e-business visionary, an evangelist, a relentless recruiter, a mentor, and an expert in psychology as well as the implementation of (constant) change management.”

3- “The CIO is a mirror of the institutions…The CIO is a mirror of a global economy…The CIO is at the center of our cultural crossroads…The CIO is a change agent for business processes and cultural norms…The CIO is a mentor and a leader…The CIO is the gatekeeper of the company’s intellectual assets and operational resources.”

4- “The first 90 days is the most important period in your CIO career at a new company…Focus on three major projects: a tactical plan to address time-critical issues and decisions, an IT organizational analysis with recommendations, and an IT strategic plan for the next two years…Establish a strong rapport with management during this time-frame, as you will need management support to implement your recommendations.”

5- “I believe, however, that there are five especially important fundamentals that a CIO needs to be cognizant of, regardless of the current focus. If internalized by IT staff, these fundamentals can dramatically transform a technology-centric IT organization into a business-focused one, almost without effort: passion, humility, openness, clarity, agility.”

6- “Technology by itself can never make a business more agile, but the right IT people applying the right technology at the right time can.”

7- “How to make yourself a better communicator: assess yourself, know your audience, set and manage expectations, insist on accountability, be aware of the political environment.”

8- “You can have an immediate impact in the area of training by utilizing internal resources to increase an employee’s knowledge about the processes or issues facing a company. By reserving the first half-hour of staff meetings for training…you can enable the most knowledgeable person associated with a ggiven process to provide 30 minutes of useful instruction.”

9- “More than one book has made reference to the following four elements, which must be present for communication to be possible: Message – An idea, concept, or som other form of notification. Transmitter – Someone or something that originates and sends the message. Receiver – Someone or something that gets the message. Medium – The means or vehicle by which the message is sent.”

10- “…Although published plans and strategic roadmaps are useful, planning skills and the capability for strategic thinking have the most significant value to the CIO, both personally and within the IT organization.”

11- “It is important for a CIO to have a philosophy around budgeting…Some philosophies that you may see include: Budgeting is a necessary evil…The budget is the Bible…The budget is a guide…The budget is an opportunity to influence change and support overall corporate direction…this is the most effective in our opinion.”

12- “IT marketing is the art of appropriately setting expectations between customer and service provider such that both entities enjoy a mutually beneficial economic relationship.”

13- “Jim Hackett: “The popular notions of the last decade were for companies to become customer-centered. Theories abounded that if you paid attention to what your customer wanted, you couldn’t go wrong. But the truth is that customers often ask you to do wrong things, not because they’re difficult to deal with but because they just don’t know better. The distinction is moving from customer-focused to user-centered, and the ability to understand the users of their products is a cultural shift that corporations have to make.””

14- “Once IT’s marketing advocate is identified, the lifecycle…borrowed from sound CRM best practices should be applied. In short, the plan is to engage, transact, fulfill, service, and report.”

15- “Good metrics should be used to guide the development of strategic objectives, narrow investment opportunities to minimize wasted capital, and continually evaluate status to ensure that progress is being made.”

16- “Although it may sound trite, in all of our years combined, we have learned to never fear a negative result of discovery. Such a discovery represents the opportunity you were seeking in instituting this discipline by which you will make change for the better.”

17- “Facts are the fundamental entities that an organization deals with…Data is integrated, ordered facts…Information is ordered data…Knowledge is ordered information within the context of experience in similar situations…Understanding is organized knowledge…Enabled intuition.”

18- “Project success is a function of RS^2 and VEC^3,  RS^2 is {Resource, Scope, Schedule}. VEC^3 is {VxExC1xC2xC3}, where V=Vested interest (that is, aligning the vested interests of key stakeholders), E=Ego (that is, understanding the values and culture of stakeholders), C1=Communication and alignment with executive management, C2=Communication and alignment with your peers, C3=Communication and alignment with all doers (implementers).”


Omar Halabieh

CIO Wisdom

CIO Wisdom


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