Creating and Sustaining Positive Change in Your First Year as CIO


Along with all the “to-do’s” in any new CIO role comes the inbox deluge of “how-to’s” from well-meaning colleagues and revenue-hungry service providers. Often this advice comes in the form of recipes for success—like a cookbook. Take an egg, add some milk and flour, a bit of leavening and voila! Instant success!

Of course, it’s not that simple. Yes, you need to do the basics: the user satisfaction study, the financial analysis, the technology review, the alignment to the business. That’s the obvious part! But today’s CIO faces far different challenges than even a few years ago. IT, and the CIO in particular, must become a business manager, a service broker and a contributor in the digital success of the organization. It must remain deeply engaged in keeping the back office running but also help to create and improve digital products and marketing for the client-facing parts of the business that are looking for new growth opportunities.

In many ways, IT is becoming the business. Today’s CIO must either deliver or be eaten alive. If you fail to deliver, new roles like the Chief Digital Officer and traditional roles like the Chief Marketing Officer will increasingly call the digital shots.

Consider these Top 5 suggestions for thinking differently about the first year of your new role:

1. It’s digital now. Get on the digital horse and ride like crazy! Rather than thinking of your organization as a cost center, think of it as a business builder. Opportunities to build business appear in the most unexpected places. Talk to peers, talk to advisors, talk to everyone. See the opportunities of your role in a new way.

2. Say yes. Make your approach the antithesis of the old-style IT executive. Always make your answer “Yes!” If you are not saying yes, someone else will, and people will figure out a way to make things happen without you.

3. Engage your organization. From your fellow executives in operations, marketing and product development, learn the big picture and develop your strategy. You’ll want to help drive the business strategy at the same time you are specifically engaged with products, customers and anything digital.

4. Know everything. Know it even if you don’t want to! Use your direct reports to help develop the knowledge. Start with some serious introspection in your own organization and then widen your view to include the opportunities and digital capabilities of the market.

5. Act, react, measure and adjust. Transformational change in the digital world is ongoing, overlapping – and breathtakingly fast. The moment you are finishing one thing, another brand new thing is started and on its way. Projects may take unexpected paths when new technology or resources becomes available. Use partners. And don’t be afraid of smaller firms. They are often where innovation is moving the fastest.

ISG can help you think through your transformational project, whether it’s your first year or your fifth year as CIO. Read more about how to approach the changing IT landscape in our recent white paper Making an Impact: Creating and Sustaining Positive Change in Your First Year as CIO. Or contact us to discuss further.

About the author

Cynthia brings 25 years of experience helping clients develop their sourcing governance and service management design. Having worked with more than 50 organizations to improve business management and service management processes in both single-provider and multi-provider environments, Cynthia has become a recognized expert in sourcing governance, vendor and contract management. She currently serves as the architect for ISG’s service methodology and global integrator of its products and services. Cynthia works to leverage ISG’s accumulated intellectual property resources to help enterprises create effective transformation and governance capability, and maintains a continuing role in the Strategy and Organizational Change Enablement practice.