Richard Branson’s Guide To True Leadership For CIOs

Richard Branson has become successful by being a great leader
Richard Branson has become successful by being a great leader
Image Credit: Pedro Ribeiro Simões

When it comes to management, things are actually pretty easy. You have people who work for you, they need to do what you tell them to do or you’ll fire them. End of story. However, then there is that pesky leadership thing. I view management as being something that your staff does while you are in the room to improve the importance of information technology and then they may kick back and stop doing once you leave. However, I see leadership as being something that people do because they want to and even after you leave the room a well lead group of people will keep working. Sir Richard Branson with all of his Virgin companies has learned how to do leadership well. What can he teach us?

It’s All About The Ears

One of the first things that Sir Richard Branson likes to point out when he’s talking to CIOs about leadership is all too often we tend to think of leadership as consisting of us telling our staff what to do. This can include such things as telling people what we think about an issue or handing out directions. The problem with viewing things this way is that our most valuable employees really don’t want us telling them what to do, they simply want to be heard.

Richard Branson believes that in order to be a good leader we need to be a good listener. As the CIO you need to take the time to listen to your people who spend their time on the front line. If you can get good at this listening thing, then you are going to be able to learn from the market, from the people that you work with, and from any failures that happen along the way.

Failure Is Your Friend

I can only speak for myself, but I hate to fail. However, as a CIO you always have to be trying to innovate and grow. What this means is that every time you try something new there is the very real possibility that you may end up failing. As a CIO, you need to become comfortable with the idea of failing.

As the CIO you need to learn how to not be embarrassed by any mistakes that either you or your team makes. You have to be willing to give new things a try. Every time that you fail, you need to take the time to learn from it and then pick yourself and your team up and go out there and try, try again. CIOs need to understand that making mistakes and experiencing setbacks are the hallmark of any successful IT department.

It Turns Out That Employees Are More Important Then Customers

Careful – it’s a bit of a trick question. What’s more important to a CIO: customers or employees? The gut answer is often customers, what could be more important? However it turns out that the right answer is employees. Why pick your employees over your customers? Sir Richard Branson explains it this way “If you take care of your employees, your employees will take care of your customers, and your customers will take care of your shareholders.”

As the person with the CIO job, you want to have an employee-first mindset. The more engaged you can make your staff, the more loyal they will become and the better their work will turn out to be. All of this comes together with the IT department being able to deliver a better overall customer experience. In the end, happy employees result in happy customers.

What All Of This Means For You

Anyone can be a manager – that’s just telling people what to do. It is a lot harder to be a leader – that’s convincing people to do what you want them to do. The person in the CIO position needs to learn how to become an effective leader. It turns out that Sir Richard Branson is a very successful leader and he’s willing to share with us his secrets for how we can become better leaders.

The first thing that Richard Branson wants us to know is that being a leader is not about telling our employees what to do. Instead, it’s about taking the time to listen to them. You need to listen to the people who are interacting with customers so that you can learn what they want. Next you are going to have to find a way to make failure your friend. It’s not going to be easy, but if you want to grow and expand your IT department, then you are going to have to get used to failing occasionally. Finally, Richard says that we need to put our employees above everyone else, including customers. The thinking is that if you have happy employees, then you’ll have happy customers.

Richard Branson has been very, very successful. It’s important to note that he has also failed at a lot of different things that he has tried to do. However, he’s never let these failures get him down for long. He always picks himself back up and tries something else new. It’s this kind of ability to lead a team that we as CIOs need to learn from. If we try hard enough, we can be just like Sir Richard Branson.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that there is a wrong way to go about failing?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As everyone in the CIO position knows, keeping the company’s systems and applications secure is a top priority and has a lot to do with the importance of information technology. However, just exactly how to go about doing this has always been a bit of a mystery. One of the most powerful techniques that is currently being used is something called “two factor authentication”. What is this security technique and how many different flavors of it exist?

How Should CIOs Give Negative Feedback?

It's critical the CIOs give negative feedback, but they need to do it correctly
It’s critical the CIOs give negative feedback, but they need to do it correctly
Image Credit: Daniel Friedman

We’ve all been there. All of a sudden we realize that someone in the IT department has failed to deliver on a commitment that they made to us that has something to do with the importance of information technology. As the person with the CIO job, it is now going to be your job to give them negative feedback so that they know that they have failed. You’d really like to find a way to avoid repeating whatever went wrong in the first place. Additionally, your biggest fear is that by providing negative feedback you are going to end up damaging your relationship with this person and you’ll be left with an even bigger problem than you already have. How can the person in the CIO position effectively provide negative feedback?

Don’t Wait

So just exactly how soon after an event occurs do you think that the CIO should pull the person aside and share some negative feedback with them? It turns out that there is no one correct answer to this question. It’s really going to come down to having you determine what your current emotional state is. If the issue has made you upset, then you are probably going to want to take some time to cool down.

This may not always be the case. If you think that you are in control of how you feel about what has happened, then you should feel free to move ahead and start to conversation as soon as possible. One of the things that you want to remember is that you should probably wait no later than a single day. The reason is because the longer that you wait, the less effective your feedback is going to turn out to be. The reason for this is because the person that you’ll be giving the feedback to won’t remember it to the same degree. It will not be fresh in their minds.

Ask Permission

As you can well imagine, nobody out there is really going to be walking around hoping that someone will take them aside and give them some negative feedback. To get around this fact of life, you are going to need to start things off by asking the person that you’ll be talking with for their permission for you to provide them with feedback.

The reason that you are going to want to go to the effort of asking for permission to provide feedback is because if you don’t, then the person is not going to be open to listening to what you have to tell them. This of course leads to the question of what you should do if you ask permission to give feedback and the other person says “no”. In this case you need to shut up. You need to understand that the reason that you’ll be giving feedback is to create a change in the person’s behavior. However, if they are not willing to change than your feedback is not going to do them any good.

Share Your Understanding

The reason that you feel compelled to provide the other person with negative feedback is because you feel that they have not done something that they promised to do. However, as we all know – sometimes we are wrong. The one thing that we wouldn’t want to do is to deliver a lot of negative feedback and then discover that because of a misunderstanding on our part, the entire conversation had not been necessary.

Since you are the person who will be sharing the negative feedback, you’ll always be the person who starts the conversation. After you share your understanding of what happened, you need to be sure to pause for a moment an ask the person if your understanding is their understanding. While you are having this conversation, you are going to have to make sure that you do not come across as appearing to blame the other person. If you do this, then they may shut down and will stop listening to you.

What All Of This Means For You

If there is one job that none of us with the CIO job ever wants to do then it is to be the person who has to deliver negative feedback. However, if someone in the IT department does not deliver on something that they promised to do, then it is your responsibility to let them know that they have made a mistake. How you go about doing this can play a big role in what your relationship with this person is going to be like going forward.

One of the most important parts about giving negative feedback has to do with how soon after the event you give the feedback. If the incident has gotten you all worked up, take a break and perhaps sleep on it. Have the discussion tomorrow. If you think that you have your emotions under control, then feel free to pull the person aside and have the discussion right now. Before you start to share your negative feedback with someone, first ask their permission to share your information with them. This will make them more receptive to what you have to tell them. If they say no, then walk away – they’ll never listen to what you have to say. There is always the possibility that your understanding of what happened is different from theirs. You need to explain your understanding of what happened first and make sure that they agree with you.

There are parts of the CIO job that everyone looks forward to, and then there are the other parts. Providing the people who work for you with negative feedback is never easy to do. However, it is a critical part of both your job and their career. You need to learn how to accomplish this task successfully. Use what we’ve discussed and the next time that you have to provide negative feedback make sure that it is well received.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: How much time do you think that you should take in order to provide negative feedback?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Image Credit: Pedro Ribeiro Simões

CIOs Want To Know: What Comes After Passwords?

There surely has to be something better than passwords out there…
There surely has to be something better than passwords out there…
Image Credit: Hardeep Singh

As the person with the CIO job, because you understand the importance of information technology it’s part of your job to ensure that both your company’s customers and its employees are kept secure when they are using the company’s IT infrastructure. This means that you need to implement systems that will allow the good guys in and keep the bad guys out. More often than not, the way that we go about doing this is by implementing security systems that require a user to enter a password. However, there are all sorts of problems with passwords . Is there a better way for a CIO to go about doing this?

Say Goodbye To Passwords

In a perfect world, the person in the CIO position would be able to make the authentication of both customers and employees almost invisible. The goal would be to have the verification of employee’s identities be something that happens in the background. In order to allow companies to do away with passwords, IT departments are investigating new technologies such as biometric scans of both fingertips and faces . Additionally, authentication tools are being developed that track what apps you open most frequently.

What CIOs need to realize is that the bad guys keep getting better at what they do. This means that the old standby, passwords, are starting to appear as though they are less secure than they used to be . A number of electronic break-ins, including the one at Equifax, are going to raise questions about trying to authenticate a person using things like their Social Security number or other personal data. Everyone agrees that better authentication methods are required. What CIOs need to keep in mind is that yes, security is very important; however, at the same time companies want to be able to present their customers and employees with a seamless experience and not require them to have to remember yet another set of passwords.

A number of companies have taken the lead in searching for alternatives to passwords. Over at the credit card company Mastercard, they have started to equip some of their employees with laptops that can read a fingerprint before permitting access . Additionally, because Mastercard knows that they need to keep the bad guys out of their work areas, they are testing new technology that will scan employee faces before they are permitted into a building. Mastercard also wants to find ways to verify who their customers are without requiring them to use a password. They are deploying technology that can identify you based on how you hold your mobile phone and other such behavioral biometrics.

What Will Replace Passwords?

All of this new technology stuff sure sounds great, but we need to be a bit careful here before we go rushing in too far. What the CIO does not want to do is to disrupt the end user’s experience with too many security policies . What we may forget is that even if we implement slick new technology, this may leave our customers feeling that their data is less secure because they didn’t have to enter a password. With the new systems, we need to be careful that they are not too sensitive. You wouldn’t want a security program to be blocking a user because their typing had changed because they had injured their hand. These kinds of mistakes can make life cumbersome for both employees and customers.

One of the hot new areas for getting rid of passwords, especially with the introduction of Apple IPhone X, is facial recognition. This technology is constantly evolving; however, it is still not quite perfect. There are a number of different things that can result in a facial recognition system not working correctly . A poorly lighted room or a user with a new beard could both result in a user being locked out of their system. The other challenge with any facial recognition system is that they are not perfect. Hackers can get around them by using high quality photographs, animations, or an animated avatar.

So what should CIOs do about passwords? If you take the time to talk with the experts, what they will tell you is that a CIO should not rely on a single authentication tool . Note that we do this today with the passwords that we use. The smart people tell us that we should take a layered approach to implementing security within our company. The approach that we should take should, in the future, is to use a combination of biometrics, behavior monitoring, and maybe even a password or two.

What All Of This Means For You

CIOs understand that they have a security problem on their hands. The passwords that are currently being used to identify users who want to gain access to the IT department’s systems are not secure enough to keep the bad guys out. New technology is going to be required and the sooner that it can be implemented, the better .

The best kind of identity verification systems are the ones that operate in the background out of sight . Electronic break-ins where personal data is stolen show that such data is no longer considered to be secure. CIOs need to find ways to secure their systems in a way that will not require end users to remember more passwords. Mastercard has been very aggressive in securing their internal systems and helping their customers to identify themselves. CIOs need to be careful that new identify solutions don’t leave customers feeling as though their data is no longer secure. Facial recognition technology is currently very hot. However, it can fail and under the right circumstances it can be fooled. CIOs are going to have to learn to not rely on a single identify solution, but rather to create layers of different solutions.

No, passwords are so embedded in all of the systems that we use that they will not be going away overnight. However, as the world has evolved it has become clear that passwords are no longer going to be enough to keep our systems secure . The future is going to be filled with different types of biometrics that will allow our systems to identify who is preparing to use them. The future is going to be different from today, but our systems should become more secure.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that new authentication techniques should be implemented in addition to existing password systems?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

We’ve all been there. All of a sudden we realize that someone in the IT department has failed to deliver on a commitment that they made to us that has something to do with the importance of information technology. As the person with the CIO job, it is now going to be your job to give them negative feedback so that they know that they have failed. You’d really like to find a way to avoid repeating whatever went wrong in the first place. Additionally, your biggest fear is that by providing negative feedback you are going to end up damaging your relationship with this person and you’ll be left with an even bigger problem than you already have. How can the person in the CIO position effectively provide negative feedback?

How To Avoid Having Unengaged Employees On Your Team

What you really want is for the members of your IT department to be engaged
What you really want is for the members of your IT department to be engaged
Image Credit: Ged Carroll

When you have new people join your department, they generally do so with a great deal of excitement – they understand the importance of information technology. There are a lot of things that they want to accomplish and they are looking forward to learning many new things. However, over time this has a habit of changing. Over time you are almost guaranteed to have a dip in morale. Surveys have been done and what they have found is that this affliction hits roughly 70% of the people who will be joining your department. What’s the person with the CIO job to do?

It’s All About Avoiding Being Unengaged By Being Transparent

When your department is small, it can be quite easy to make sure that everyone knows what is going on. However, as your department grows in size and eventually starts to spread over multiple locations, it’s going to get harder and harder to keep everyone in the loop. As the person in the CIO position you need to realize that if you want to keep the members of your department engaged in what they are doing, then keeping things transparent will now become part of your job.

In order to make this transparency thing work, you are going to have double up on your efforts to get the word out about what is going on. You need to be willing to share as much information as possible–what your sales are, what the strategy is, why you’re making certain decisions. As CIOs we all want our department to be part of the company’s growth. The more aggressive you and the company are with growth, the more helpful it is to make ultra-transparency a priority

Hire Like The Big Boys

As a CIO you know what an effort it is go to out and find the right person to invite to join your department. Once you’ve found this person, made an offer, and gotten them to accept the offer, that’s when the real work starts. You are going to have to do a good job of onboarding your new talent.

All too often we’ll spend our time trying to figure out the right way to select the right person for a role. Once we’ve accomplished that task, our attention then tends to shift to other things. That’s not good. Instead, what we need to be doing is to codify how you perform onboarding earlier than you think you need to, so people feel like they’re being integrated smartly. How a new department member feels right off the bat can have a very large impact on how quickly they will become productive. If you don’t do a good job of this, then your new department member often end up spinning their wheels and accomplishing little–a sure-fire recipe for dragging down department morale.

Collect Data, Use Data

As a CIO, it is your responsibility to stay on top of how your department is feeling. When your department is a small department, this can be easy to do. If you take them out for a meal, you can get a general feel for what everyone’s thinking and what the mood of the department is. As the department grows larger and starts to be more spread out, this approach is not going to work for you anymore.

You are going to have to adopt a different approach to how you find out what your department is really thinking. You are going to need to replace your gut checks on how your department is feeling with more formal tools. The good news is that there is a crop of new tech products that let you take quick pulses of employee happiness. Your goal is going to be to err toward weekly or monthly feedback. Annual surveys are basically pointless, given how quickly the department and the company are changing.

Everything Is A Big Deal

As a CIO, this is one area where I must confess to dropping the ball occasionally, The people on your department who come into the office day after day and do their job can very easy start to feel as though they are simply a part of the big machine. That their individual contributions really don’t matter all that much. As the CIO, you need to realize that this is happening and this is when you need to step in and change things.

So what’s the best way to go about doing all of this? Call out major wins often, with formal awards or casual staff emails. Surveys have shown that forty percent of workers say they’d work harder if they were commended more often. As a CIO you need to realize that this is so easy to do that there is really no excuse for us forgetting to do it.

Clearly State Your Roles & Goals

When you first formed your department, you needed the people on your department to be jacks-of-all-trades. Every day had different challenges and you needed them members of your department to be willing to step up and take charge. However, as you department has become bigger things have changed. Now there is a need for expertise. Things are going to have to change.

This shift in the type of people that you need to be adding to your department can spell disaster for the mood around the office. What can happen is that the ground-floor hires start to think they’re getting passed over without consideration. Your job as a CIO is going to be to make sure people don’t find out about a new position after you’ve made an outside hire. Instead, you need to attach quantifiable skills and metrics to each role, so your current department can see how they stack up–and how they can advance. If you can do a good job of this then bringing on a senior specialist can even raise spirits, if the current department “sees the person as a potential mentor as much as a boss.”

What All Of This Means For You

As a CIO it is your job to manage your department. What this comes down to is the simple fact that you need to find a way to make sure that each member of your department remains engaged in what the department is trying to accomplish. Finding ways to keep a department engaged and not becoming unengaged is a critical part of your job.

In order to keep the members of your department engaged, you need to make sure that everything that you do is transparent. This is easy to do when the department is small, but can become more of a challenge as the department grows in size and locations. As you are onboarding new employees you need to take the time to make sure that they feel engaged from the start. It’s all too easy to think that your job stops once you’ve found the right candidate; however, it turns out that this is just the start of your responsibilities. Understanding how your department feels is important. As your department grows, you are going to have to start to use tech tools to find out where their minds are at. In order to ensure that the members of your department remain engaged, you are going to have to celebrate every department accomplishment. Since your department will be growing and new people will be added, make sure that everyone knows why someone is joining the department.

A department is made up of a complex set of smart professionals. As a CIO it is your job to find ways to ensure that all of these people remain engaged and committed to achieving the department’s goals. Take the time to constantly make sure that nobody on your department becomes unengaged and your department will be able to achieve great things!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: What steps should you take if you discover that one or more team members has become unengaged?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As the person with the CIO job, because you understand the importance of information technology it’s part of your job to ensure that both your company’s customers and its employees are kept secure when they are using the company’s IT infrastructure. This means that you need to implement systems that will allow the good guys in and keep the bad guys out. More often than not, the way that we go about doing this is by implementing security systems that require a user to enter a password. However, there are all sorts of problems with passwords . Is there a better way for a CIO to go about doing this?

CIOs Are Discovering That Humans Are Important Too

It turns out that humans are an important part of every IT department
It turns out that humans are an important part of every IT department
Image Credit:
Black Knights

As the person with the CIO job, you have a very important question that you have to find the answer to. What is more important to your IT department: people or technology. We spend a great deal of time thinking and learning about technology because we understand the importance of information technology. Our ability to use more and more technology to further automate how our company does business seems to be increasing every day. One way to look at the future is that ultimately machines will do all of the work and the IT department really won’t need people (except for you) any more. Can this be correct?

Why Humans Matter

So why would humans matter in a world that is more and more being occupied by cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and an internet of things? It turns out that those humans that you employ in your IT department have a number of unique skills that we just have not been able to teach to computers as of yet. Humans have the ability to be creative and to use problem-solving skills to find the answers to tricky problems. These are skills that your IT department is always going to need.

I think that we can all agree that the future will be different from the present. Right now it’s looking like the machines that we mange in the IT department are going to start to take over. This really is not a bad thing. The machines are going to be triggering IT processes that we humans have been doing. However, even as this starts to happen we humans will still have a role to play in the IT department.

The person in the CIO position has more technology at their control than ever before. Technologies such as machine learning are being used to allow the company to better understand their customer’s behavior. The ultimate goal is to be able to predict a customer’s behavior. As fancy as the computers that perform these functions are, humans will always be required assets. Humans are the ones who can mine customer information for insights. We are the ones who have the ability to experiment with new ideas, question paradigms, and empathize with the company’s customers.

What Humans Will Be Doing In The Future

As the CIO you are going to be responsible for determining how best to make use of the humans that you have. The experts believe that the way that IT teams are formed is going to start to change in the future. The thinking is that your IT employees are going to find themselves starting to form “mission based teams that solve a problem”. The employees will come together and create small teams. These teams will form and then disband at different rates.

IT employees will be forming smaller and more mission-driven teams as IT automation starts to take over more and more of how the company operates. It is believed that within the next five to seven years IT groups are going to be up to 40% smaller. At the same time they are going to be faster and more specialized. This will be the case due to a number of different factors including the company’s shift into the cloud and the fact that more and more of the IT department has been automated.

As the company’s CIO, it’s going to be your hope that your IT department is going to be able to add value to the company going forward. You’ll be able to use smaller IT groups that are built using employees who come from specialized areas such as security, big data, and mobility. The reason that these teams will be so valuable is because they will have the ability to work on projects that will make the company more competitive and work with technologies that can help to increase the company’s revenue.

What All Of This Means For You

Every CIO is in charge of two things: technology and people. As the technology increases in functionality, the question comes up as to what value the people on your team continue to provide. One may start to think that ultimately technology will take over and the people will no longer be needed. However, it turns out that you’ll always need your people.

Humans are going to continue to matter to IT departments because humans can do things that are just not possible to accomplish with computers. The company wants to better understand their customer’s needs and computers can do a great job of collecting and processing vast collections of information. However, humans will always be required in order to interpret what the data is saying. As technology starts to perform more of the tasks that IT departments used to do, you’ll see smaller and smaller IT teams. These teams will come together, accomplish a task, and then move on. These teams will help to boost the value of the company.

Managing technology is a challenging task. Managing people can be even more difficult. However, as the company’s CIO you need to realize that your humans are your most important resource. The role of your IT staff is going to be changing as more and more technology rolls out in your company; however, your human workers will always be your most valuable resource.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: How do you think that the IT department should change in order to better support more smaller teams in the future?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental Successful CIO Blog is updated.

P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Successful CIO Newsletter are now available. Learn what you need to know to do the job. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

When you have new people join your department, they generally do so with a great deal of excitement – they understand the importance of information technology. There are a lot of things that they want to accomplish and they are looking forward to learning many new things. However, over time this has a habit of changing. Over time you are almost guaranteed to have a dip in morale. Surveys have been done and what they have found is that this affliction hits roughly 70% of the people who will be joining your department. What’s the person with the CIO job to do?

How Can A CIO Help To Transform WebMD Into An Action Center

Everyone already knows about WebMD
Everyone already knows about WebMD
Image Credit: Peter Morville

In this modern age in which we are living, what do you do when you start to feel not so good? If you are like most of us, you think about the symptoms that you are experiencing and then, because you understand the importance of information technology, you go online to try to figure out if what you are dealing with is serious. The internet is a big place and there are a lot of different places that you can go, but one place that most of us will visit is WebMD. Things are changing in the online medical space and WebMD is going to have to change also. How can their CIO help them do this?

What Does WebMD Want To Do?

Right now, there is a lot going on over at WebMD. The company has sold itself to a private equity firm called KKR & Co. for US$2.8B. Clearly the purchasers of WebMD believe that the company has a great future ahead of it. WebMD has stated that it wants to transform the company’s main website, WebMD.com, from a customer destination site for gathering information into a platform that customers will engage with and then take action to improve their health. This is exactly where the person with the CIO job can step in and help out.

Right now, WebMD is the website that 75 million people visit each month in order to get health related information. One of the most important things for visitors is that they believe that they can obtain accurate information that they can trust. The person in the CIO job has a responsibility to ensure that the website clearly shows visitors that the WebMD editorial team is separated from the advertisers and that the advertisers won’t be allowed to influence the information that visitors are getting. When there is advertiser sponsored content on the website, the site needs to ensure that it is clearly labeled as such. It is the responsibility of the CIO to ensure that both of these tasks are always done and done well.

WebMD has been in existence for over 20 years. WebMD has become a place where patients, consumers, and even caregivers come to get healthcare information. In the past, after they had gotten the information that they needed, they then went somewhere else in order to take action based on that information. The WebMD CIO is being asked to take action and transition the WebMD platform. The goal is to transform WebMD from a place where you go to get information into a place where you can now go to take action. The scale of WebMD means that they are in a good place to attempt to improve how they interact with their audience.

How Will WebMD Change?

WebMD wants their CIO to help them build on the website that they already have. What this means is that they want to be able to start to add new services that their customers are going to want. These will include extending their existing symptom checker feature. Now when a visitor uses this feature, they could be provided with options to order a lab test, book a visit with a doctor, or schedule a telemedicine visit. Likewise, if a visitor to the site read something on the site and then decided that they wanted to speak with a doctor then the site could help them to either schedule a visit to a doctor or allow them to engage in a telemedicine visit.

This transformation of the services that WebMD will be offering to their visitors is expected to have a significant impact on how the company makes money. In the past, WebMD made all of its revenue from advertising and sponsorships. When the CIO makes the changes to the site that will allow new services to be offered, the sources of revenue will then change. The site will soon be able to charge their visitors for helping them to take action. Additionally, WebMD plans on letting visitors know if an action will be covered by their insurance.

One of the big issues that WebMD is going to have to deal with will be doctors who believe that the website is trying to insert themselves between patients and their doctors. It is going to be the job of the CIO to ensure that the website very clearly shows that this is not the case. In fact, right now 70% of the visitors to the WebMD website who are looking for information on a disease or a condition end up making an appointment with a doctor within 30 days. WebMD wants to be seen as being a tool that will make it easier for patients to make appointments with doctors.

What All Of This Means For You

The WedMD CIO has a real challenge on his or her hands. The company has been operating a very successful website for a long time. However, the world of online medicine is changing and WebMD understands that it is going to have to change with it. What can WebMD’s CIO do in order to keep the company successful while adding value to the website that they already have?

WebMD has just been bought by a company that sees a great future for it. WebMD currently operates a very popular website that millions of people come to each month in order to get information on diseases and conditions. They very carefully try to separate their editorial content from any advertising on the site and mark ads as being ads. WebMD wants their visitor to stop coming to WebMD just to get information and then go elsewhere to take action. Going forward WebMD wants visitors to use the site to schedule a doctor visit, order a lab test, or have a telemedicine visit. The CIO is going to have to be careful to make sure that doctors don’t start to view WebMD as inserting themselves between the patient and the doctor. Instead, WebMD wants to be seen as yet another way for people to schedule a doctor visit.

The WebMD CIO is lucky because the website is already very, very popular. The real challenge is that the company wants to transform the types of services that it offers and the CIO is going to have to find a way to do with without losing the customers that they already have. It sounds like it’s time to make a doctor’s call and make sure that the WebMD website can once again become healthy!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that the WebMD website will need to tell visitors that the company is making money when they schedule a doctor’s appointment?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As the person with the CIO job, you have a very important question that you have to find the answer to. What is more important to your IT department: people or technology. We spend a great deal of time thinking and learning about technology because we understand the importance of information technology. Our ability to use more and more technology to further automate how our company does business seems to be increasing every day. One way to look at the future is that ultimately machines will do all of the work and the IT department really won’t need people (except for you) any more. Can this be correct?

What Can A CIO Do About The Problem Of Airline Overbooking?

United's CIO needs to solve their overbooking problem
United’s CIO needs to solve their overbooking problem
Image Credit: Teka England

Times have been tough for United airlines in the past. There was that event where a passenger was removed from a flight forcibly and everyone filmed it and put it on social media. A bit before that the airline had had to delay 500 of their flights because of a second glitch in two weeks of the computer systems that run the airline. Clearly being the CIO at United is not an easy job. What needs to be done here to get things back on track?

The Challenge Of Overbooking

The issue of overbooking on airline flights has become a bigger deal because right now the airline industry is experiencing a surge in passengers. United, just like all of the other airlines, is responding to this surge by offering a more types of fare categories and collecting fees for extra services like seat upgrades and priority boarding. United’s person with the CIO job has stated that they are going to be using data analytics to do a better job of managing overbooking situations more strategically. They also hope to be able to do a better job of targeting specific groups of travelers with unique offers.

One of the things that the person in the CIO position needs to understand about overbooking situations is that they are generally a result of some kind of operational disruption that has occurred. The result of this disruption is that United ends up flying a different plane for a given route than they had originally intended. A change like this can happen very close to the planned departure time for the flight. The new plane may not have as many seats as the planned plane did and this can result in an overbooking situation happening. The CIO believes that technology can help to minimize this kind of disruption. They want to help with anticipating issues so that they can allow passengers to proactively reschedule their flights.

The CIO realizes that a lot of their overbooking situations can occur when United has oversold a flight. The company is starting to take a look at how they can use technology to make better predictions about what people will show up for a flight. The technology can predict which people are most likely to show up for the flight. Likewise, it can predict those customers who are likely to oversleep or get caught in traffic and miss the flight. United wants to use the data to further refine their analytics in order to determine which flights have a higher probability of no-shows.

How United Is Going To Deal With Overbooking

United understands that they need to take steps to reduce the number of overbookings that they are dealing with. They have gone ahead and made a number of changes that have resulted in the number of involuntary denied boardings decreasing by 80%. What United is hoping to do is to use analytics and machine learning to allow them to avoid having to implement black-and-white rules that determine who gets on a flight.

United wants to start to use data in a more effective way. They are hoping to use information on which of their flights have the greatest number of historical no-shows in order to determine if a flight should allow overbooking. Additionally, they would like to incorporate information on things that may be happening in a city on a given day to make overbooking determinations. United wants to use the same technology to improve their seat booking process. What they’d like to be able to do is to determine what additional items someone would like to purchase when they are reserving a seat. These items could include Wi-Fi, checked baggage, time in a lounge, or a prepaid meal?

The one thing that the United CIO realizes is that the company has a lot of data. Now that data has to be processed in order to create useful information. The company is hoping that they are going to be able to use analytics in order to process their data and get the results into the hands of their employees so that they can take action. Now that flight attendants have been equipped with mobile devices, they can tell the status of each passenger on the flight. This means that the right meals can be delivered to the right passengers. Additionally, seat upgrades can be offered to those passengers who are a member of United’s rewards program.

What All Of This Means For You

United airlines has been dealing with some bad press as of late. There have been well publicized incidents of overbooked passengers being forcibly removed from a flight along with system outages that have resulted in many delayed flights. The United CIO needs to understand the importance of information technology and find a way to address the company’s current overbooking problem.

The United CIO has stated that the company is going to start to use analytics more. The goal is to be able to make predictions about flights and overbookings. Overbookings are often caused by operational issues that cause one plane to be substituted for another. The new plane has fewer seats and thus an overbooking situation is created. Overbooking can also occur when the company oversells a flight. The company is trying to use analytics to predict which of its booked passengers will actually show up to board the plane. United hopes to use their collected data to determine which of their flights have the greatest number of no-shows. If they can add in information on events happening in a given city, then they’ll know when they can oversell a flight. Ultimately it all comes down to the data that United has collected. If they can process it and get it into the hands of their employees, then they’ll be better positioned to deal with the problem of overbooking.

Overbooking is something that no airline passenger wants to have to deal with. United has had difficulties in past with promising flights to too many people. The CIO knows that they now have the responsibility to solve this problem. The company has the data that they need. However, now the CIO and the IT department need to take the time and use analytics in order to get information into employee’s hands so that the overbooking problem can finally go away for good.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: If an overbooking occurs, how do you think United should determine which passenger does not get to get onto the plane?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

In this modern age in which we are living, what do you do when you start to feel not so good? If you are like most of us, you think about the symptoms that you are experiencing and then, because you understand the importance of information technology, you go online to try to figure out if what you are dealing with is serious. The internet is a big place and there are a lot of different places that you can go, but one place that most of us will visit is WebMD. Things are changing in the online medical space and WebMD is going to have to change also. How can their CIO help them do this?

What Can CIOs Do In Order To Increase Diversity In The IT Department?

CIOs know that a more diverse IT department operates better
CIOs know that a more diverse IT department operates better
Image Credit: Oregon Department of Transportation

Would it be ok if we took a moment and talked about diversity? Let’s face it, the world of IT and most of our IT departments are not really models of diversity. For some reason, it sure seems like white males (and a lot of Asians) are the ones who seem to populate most of an IT department and get to work on the importance of information technology. Sure, we all have our token females, blacks, Hispanics, etc. but they are not represented in a way that matches their numbers in the real world. As a CIO, you are probably well aware of the benefits of diversity. What are you going to do to solve your diversity problem?

The Diversity Problem In IT

The IT industry knows that it has a diversity problem. In the past, the papers have been full of stories about sexual harassment at Uber Technologies along with bias in hiring at a lot of the other Silicon Valley companies. The good news is that as of late, some of the big names in the industry such as Alphabet and Facebook have started to take steps to fix this problem. Knowing that you have a problem is the first step in fixing it.

One of the first things that a person with the CIO job needs to be able to do is to create a definition of just exactly what diversity is going to mean for their department. In the end I believe that this is actually fairly simple to do. I believe that diversity simply comes down to creating opportunity for everyone. A lot of companies are trying to figure out where they currently stand in terms of diversity by creating diversity reports. However it’s what they do after that which can become tricky. Many companies like to then set diversity goals that they want to achieve. However, the problem is that this can incentivize the wrong types of behavior. People may start to attempt to meet a diversity target in a way that does not line up with the company’s culture.

In order to determine the scope of the diversity problem that your IT department is facing, you are going to have to take steps to collect information. This means that you are going to have to take the time to meet with people who are located at all levels and in all functions of the IT department. What you are going to want to do is to listen to them. Your goal needs to be to find out what your company has done in order to boost diversity so far. You’ll want to learn what has worked for the company and, of course, what has not worked.

How To Fix IT’s Diversity Problem

Without leadership from the person with the CIO job, things won’t change at your company in terms of diversity. What this means for you is that you are going to have start to do things that will make a difference. The first thing that you can do is to go out and visit all of the remote parts of your IT infrastructure. What you will probably end up discovering is that the staff who are located at these remote locations simply want to be heard. They want to feel as though they are being heard and are allowed to be engaged in this discussion. Yes, the company has probably been saying things about diversity; however, what has been missing is having you actually out there in the field talking with people about diversity.

The next thing that you are going to want to do is to is to collect the information that you are able to obtain by visiting each part of the IT department. Once you have this information, you are going to want to bring it back to headquarters. What you’ll want to do with all of this new data will be to sort through it and then find ways to incorporate it into the IT department’s diversity strategy. It’s only by doing this that you are going to be able to show the people who have provided you with the data that you are listening to them, valuing their inputs, and then taking action to make sure that their needs are being met. In the end, this is what diversity is all about.

In order to determine how your IT department is doing in terms of diversity you are probably going to want to have reports generated. The challenge here is that it is all too easy to get caught up in the numbers that those reports will provide you with. The reports can be good for you – they will provide you with a certain level of transparency. However, it can be too easy to over focus on the numbers in the reports. As the CIO you need to view diversity as being a part of your long term strategy. You won’t be able to see dramatic changes in a time period as short as a year. If that was possible to do, your company probably would have already done it. You need to realize that diversity is hard to do right and it’s going to take some time to get it right. You need to keep in mind that diversity takes on many different forms within the IT department. There are of course numbers, representation, and hiring. However, diversity and inclusion can also be shown through employee participation. You need to make your IT department a good place to be for all people. Getting everyone to come to the table with an open mind is the only way that diversity is going to happen.

What All Of This Means For You

Unfortunately IT departments are not well known for being diverse. All too often they are staffed with white males and just a few people who represent other genders and races. As CIO, you need to realize that you have a diversity problem on your hands and you need to start to take steps to increase the diversity of your department.

The diversity problem in IT is not just a problem that your company is facing. The news has been filled with the problems that the companies out in Silicon Valley have been facing with a lack of diversity. As the CIO you need to understand what diversity is – creating opportunity for everyone. You need to be careful in setting diversity goals in order to make sure that you are creating the correct incentives. Collecting information is the first step in determining how big of a diversity problem you are facing. As the CIO it is your responsibility to solve the diversity problem. You can start by visiting all of the remote parts of your IT organization in order to find out what is and is not working. Then bring this information back to headquarters and incorporate it into your diversity strategy. Doing this will show your employees that you are listening to them. If you have diversity reports generated then you are going to have to be careful to not get caught up in the numbers. Instead, make sure that everyone is keeping an open mind about diversity.

We all know that diversity is a good thing for our IT departments. If we can make them diverse, then we’ll have better ideas, more creativity, and hopefully everyone will interact better. However, creating a diverse IT department will take both time and effort. As the CIO this is your responsibility. Make the time to ensure that your IT department becomes a bit more diverse every day.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: If your IT department is not diverse right now, what would be the best first step for you to take?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental Successful CIO Blog is updated.

P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Successful CIO Newsletter are now available. Learn what you need to know to do the job. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Times have been tough for United airlines in the past. There was that event where a passenger was removed from a flight forcibly and everyone filmed it and put it on social media. A bit before that the airline had had to delay 500 of their flights because of a second glitch in two weeks of the computer systems that run the airline. Clearly being the CIO at United is not an easy job. What needs to be done here to get things back on track?

How A CIO Can Deal With Religion In The Workplace

CIOs need to balance religion when it comes to the office
CIOs need to balance religion when it comes to the office
Image Credit: murdelta

Of all of the issues including the importance of information technology that the person with the CIO job has to deal with in the workplace, it’s possible that religion might be the most difficult. The reason for this is simply because there are so many different religions out there. Even within a given religion, there may be many differ offshoots which all practice their faith differently. What religion we choose to follow is a deeply personal decision that goes a long way in defining who we are. It can be very difficult for us to interact with other people who have chosen a different religion from ourselves. As CIO you are going to need to find a way to get all of these people with different beliefs to work together…

What Happens When Religion Comes To The Workplace

Religion has always been a big deal. It is only now starting to become a big deal in the workplace. What people in the CIO position are starting to see more of now is the cropping up of religious issues. These issues are sparking a flurry of lawsuits and they are starting to raise a complicated set of questions regarding how a worker’s faith should interact with their job. CIOs have been encouraging their workers to take the time to celebrate what makes them unique individuals. However, perhaps because of the very personal nature of our personal religious choices, religious identity is turning out to be a bit tougher for CIOs to learn to navigate.

In the past, most CIOs have tried to stay far, far away from anything having to do with religion in the workplace. The reason that we’ve done this is that we’ve been very afraid of doing something wrong. We don’t want to make a mistake or end up doing something that turns out to be unlawful. CIOs are well aware that if a worker feels as though they have been discriminated against because of the religion that they practice, they can file a religious discrimination lawsuit.

In the U.S., religious discrimination lawsuits have increased by more than 50% between 2006 and 2016. What this means for CIOs is that we are finding ourselves in charge of a more multicultural workforce that consists of people who have a wide array of different faiths. One problem that CIOs often have is that we fail to address our IT department member’s faiths until a problem shows up. CIOs cannot ban religious expression outright. Additionally, they are required to accommodate religious expression as long as it does not cause undue hardship on the company or its workers.

How CIOs Can Balance Religion In The Workplace

Given all of the complexities associated with religion, what’s a CIO to do? The first thing that a CIO has to realize is that their employees don’t drop their religious rights when they arrive at work. It is the responsibility of the CIO to find a way to strike a balance. CIOs need to understand that if they are not able to find a way to strike that balance, then they may find themselves in hot water. It’s important to understand that all people of faith feel that their faiths are not respected at work – white evangelicals are just as likely to have issues as non-Christians.

This is turning out to be a bigger deal than most CIOs are aware of. A recent survey showed that 28% of workers are saying that discrimination against Christians is as serious as discrimination against religious minorities. One of the reasons that this has become an issue is because religion is often missing when CIOs have conversations about corporate diversity policies. What CIOs would like to be able to do would be to create a workplace that was welcoming to workers of all faiths.

Surveys of workers have found that people who are working for companies that have a clearly stated religious nondiscrimination policy were less likely to say that they were looking for a new job. Even better, workers who work for a company that has flexible hours to permit religious observances were found to be more than twice as likely to say that they look forward to coming to work. CIOs who take the time to understand what the religious needs of their various employees are and then create solutions for them will find that they have a much happier workforce.

What All Of This Means For You

Religion has always been a very tricky subject. Our religious beliefs are a very personal thing and the fact that other people may have different religious beliefs from us can cause many people to feel as though they are being discriminated against because of their beliefs. CIOs need to be aware of the challenges associated with trying to accommodate multiple religious beliefs and then take the correct steps to create a welcoming workplace.

CIOs have to be aware of the fact that if a worker feels that they are being discriminated against then they may end up suing the company for religious discrimination. CIOs have traditionally stayed away from religious issues because we didn’t want to make any mistakes. All too often CIOs don’t deal with religion until it becomes an issue. We are required by law to make religious accommodations for our workers. CIOs need to understand that it’s not just non-Christians who may feel that they can’t practice their religion at work, a lot of Christians feel the same way. Religion has to be a part of any company’s diversity program. Having a clearly stated religious diversity program and providing time for religious observations can result in happier employees.

Life would be so much easier if there was only one religion and everyone subscribed to it. However, that is not the case and there are a lot of different religious views out there. In any IT department there are probably many different people with their own set of religious beliefs. As the CIO it is your responsibility to make sure that nobody feels as though they are being discriminated against because of their religious beliefs. You also have to take steps to create a welcoming environment for all religions. If you can accomplish all of this, then your IT department will be the place that everyone wants to come and work in.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: What can a CIO do to show that their IT department has religious tolerance?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental Successful CIO Blog is updated.

P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Successful CIO Newsletter are now available. Learn what you need to know to do the job. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Would it be ok if we took a moment and talked about diversity? Let’s face it, the world of IT and most of our IT departments are not really models of diversity. For some reason, it sure seems like white males (and a lot of Asians) are the ones who seem to populate most of an IT department and get to work on the importance of information technology. Sure, we all have our token females, blacks, Hispanics, etc. but they are not represented in a way that matches their numbers in the real world. As a CIO, you are probably well aware of the benefits of diversity. What are you going to do to solve your diversity problem?

How CIOs Can Find Compassion For The Difficult People In Their Lives

Even difficult people need compassion
Even difficult people need compassion
Image Credit: Steve Bridger

As the person with the CIO job, you are called upon to interact with a lot of different people. Some of those people will work for your company and some won’t. Some of those people will be easy to get along with and some will, how shall I say this, be difficult to get along with. When it comes to these difficult people you can both avoid them and make it harder to get your job dealing with the importance of information technology done or you can find ways to be compassionate towards them in the hopes that you’ll be able to work with them. No, it’s not going to be easy, but perhaps the payoff will be worth the effort.

How To Deal With Difficult People

One of the first questions that the person in the CIO position often asks is “why should I bother trying to show compassion towards somebody who is difficult to deal with?” It turns out that the answer is because by doing so you will experience a collection of health benefits. These include avoiding the disappointment of interacting with someone who is difficult and the high blood pressure that comes along with having to do this.

The key to having the best possible interaction with someone that you find to be a difficult person is to make sure that you take the time to adjust your thinking. You need to adjust your thinking about the person before you encounter them. You want to take the time to learn how to feel compassion for them. If you are able to cultivate compassion for others, then you will be able to better regulate your negative emotions such as stress and anxiety. At the same time you’ll be able to increase your positive emotions such as calm by working to become more compassionate.

It turns out that there are four different stages to feeling compassionate towards someone. In the first state, you recognize the suffering in someone else. In the next state, you are moved by their suffering. Next you wish that the other person did not suffer. In the final state, you feel motivated to find a way to help relieve the suffering. Where things get interesting is that determining that you want to help someone is left up to you. It turns out that just being willing to help them out is all that it takes for you to experience the benefits of feeling compassionate towards someone else.

Steps You Can Take To Deal With Difficult People

Fine, so there’s a difficult person in your life. Now what? What’s the best way for a CIO to deal with a difficult person in their life? The first thing that you don’t want to do is to suppress your thoughts. If you try to do this, you will fail and you will experience negative consequences. Suppressing your thoughts will result in you feeling more anxious and could have a harmful effect on your physical health. This is also going to end up making you think about the difficult person more often than you will want to.

Next you are going to have to own up and admit that at times you can be difficult to get along with also. This is what the experts call the “just like me rule”. What you are trying to do here to understand that just as this person may be difficult for you to deal with, you need to understand that you may be difficult for them to deal with. The thinking is that it will be humbling for you to remember this and it may make it easier for you to deal with this difficult person.

Finally, you need to take the time to become curious about this person. Take just a moment and think about what it must be like to be the other person. Your goal here has to be to try to tap into the struggles that they are facing. You need to realize that they too have both hopes and dreams. As you tap into their struggles, you will find that you are now able to let go of some of the anger and anxiety that you feel with you interact with them. The result of this is that it is going to have a positive mental and physical effect on you. Keep in mind that you don’t actually have to forgive the other person, your goal is simply to reduce the amount of emotional reactivity that you’ll experience when you interact with them.

What All Of This Means For You

As a CIO one of the key aspects of your job is that in order to be successful, you need to interact with a lot of different people. Some of those people will be easy to interact with, some will turn out to be difficult. Although it could be easy to just decide to avoid the difficult people, it turns out that they may be important in helping you accomplish all that you need to get done. What this means is that you are going to have to learn how to find compassion for these difficult people.

The first challenge that you are going to have to solve is how best to deal with the difficult people in your life. Coming up with a way to deal with these people is important for you because otherwise they can have a negative impact on your health. You are going to have to adjust your thinking and understand the four stages of dealing with a difficult person. In order to successfully interact with a difficult person, you are going to have to not suppress your thoughts. This won’t work and will just end up harming you. Next you are going to have to admit that at times you can be a difficult person to interact with also. Finally, you need to become curious about this difficult person and take the time to better understand them.

In a perfect world, we’d all get along with every person that we met. However, that’s not the world that we live in and so we need to find ways to get along with the difficult people that we will be meeting. Using the techniques that we’ve discussed, you can now find ways to overcome your natural aversion to dealing with difficult people and instead discover ways to build bridges to them.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: What do you think that you should do if a difficult person decides that they don’t want to talk with you?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental Successful CIO Blog is updated.

P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Successful CIO Newsletter are now available. Learn what you need to know to do the job. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Of all of the issues including the importance of information technology that the person with the CIO job has to deal with in the workplace, it’s possible that religion might be the most difficult. The reason for this is simply because there are so many different religions out there. Even within a given religion, there may be many differ offshoots which all practice their faith differently. What religion we choose to follow is a deeply personal decision that goes a long way in defining who we are. It can be very difficult for us to interact with other people who have chosen a different religion from ourselves. As CIO you are going to need to find a way to get all of these people with different beliefs to work together…