Google's CIO has some great ideas on how we can become better

Google’s CIO has some great ideas on how we can become better
Image Credit: Robert Scoble

This CIO job never came with any instructions. Now that we have the CIO job, we are expected to know what to do, when to do it, and who to involve in doing it. I can only speak for myself, but I sure would like to have the opportunity to talk with someone who really knew what they were doing. Somebody like Ben Fried, Google’s CIO, probably does know what he’s doing. Maybe he’d be willing to share some of his insights with us…

The Right Approach To Corporate Technology

One of the biggest challenges that any CIO is facing today is dealing with the issue of just exactly what technology a firm’s employees should be equipped with. Back in the day, before technology prices had dropped so low that everyone could go out and buy their own gear, the company was the sole provider of worker technology. You handed out a laptop and a Blackberry and you were done.

Ben points out that Google has never worked this way. Ben believes that it is the IT department’s responsibility to play a role in setting the culture of the company using technology. Google’s approach has always been to provide their workers with the technology that they feel that they need in order to best accomplish their job.

It is Ben’s belief that if a CIO limits the technology selection that is provided to workers, then that starts to establish a culture in which the company is seen as being both rigid and somewhat patriarchal. What a company needs to do, Ben says, is to understand what tools its workers need in order to perform their jobs. Once you know this, then the company has to provide them with the toolset that they need to be as productive as possible.

How To Support An IT Environment With Too Many Things In It

I can almost hear you groaning. This whole BYOD thing where workers show up in the workplace with a bewildering array of devices just about enough to cause the person in the CIO position to lose a great deal of sleep. However, over at Google, Ben sees things just a bit differently.

In most organizations, CIO are always on the lookout for ways that they can drive costs out of their support organization. What this generally means is that the support department is driven out of some remote location in the world. Unfortunately, it also means that more often than not when a user is finally able to get in contact with the support team, the user may know more about the problem than the support team does.

Google takes a much different approach to support. Ben states that they hire the equivalent of a system administrator to work the front lines of their support department. The result of this is that 90% of their support calls are closed by the first responder. The result of this investment in support is that the end users are happier with the support that they are receiving. The company now has the ability to change technologies much easier. Google’s belief is that in the end, it’s cheaper to have experts in their support department rather than dumbing down the entire support system.

What All Of This Means For You

The job of being a CIO is never easy. Although you realize the importance of information technology, not everyone else in the company does. All too often we end up having to “sell’ the importance of the IT department to the rest of the company. However, one firm at which this does not happen is Google. Ben Fried is their CIO and he has some insights into what it’s going to take for us to be successful CIOs.

Ben strongly believes that the role of the IT department is to help the company’s employees be as productive as possible. This means allowing them to pick the tools that they feel that they need in order to accomplish their jobs. By allowing them to do this, they’ll feel that the company is supporting them and will not feel as though the company is forcing them to choose technology that they don’t want. Additionally, Ben believes that the IT support department is not something that all possible costs have to be driven out of. Instead, he believes in staffing it with a skilled workforce that can quickly solve user problems so that they can get back to work.

Clearly Google is a very successful company. Their IT department has played a role in making them successful. What this means for the rest of us is that we can all take some lessons from how Ben Fried has performed his CIO job. Allowing the company’s employees to choose the right technology for them and then supporting them will allow us to become a CIO that just might be good enough to work at Google!

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

Question For You: Do you think that you should put any limits on the technology that the company’s workers choose?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

CIOs need to understand that the environment in which their company operates is changing. Two important things are happening at the same time. The first is that a lot of us are becoming older. As we age, things like mobility and vision start to degrade and this means that we are starting to become more and more like disabled users and coworkers. At the same time, the millennials are entering the workplace and they are very socially conscious so mainstreaming people with different abilities is very important to them. As the person with the CIO job, because of the importance of information technology you are going to have to make sure that your IT solutions are going to be accessible.

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CIOs Need To Know How To Build Bridges

by drjim on August 19, 2015

You'll need a bridge to move from providing a service to being a partner

You’ll need a bridge to move from providing a service to being a partnerbr />Image Credit: JOHN LLOYD

So here’s a question for you: based on the importance of information technology, what is IT’s role in your company? If you are like most people with the CIO job, your answer will consist of you listing a number of different things that the IT department does for the company: keeps its servers up, installs new applications, protects the network, etc. However, there’s something wrong with that answer: you’ve just listed a bunch of services. That’s not what an IT department should be limited to doing. Instead, you should be a true business partner to the rest of the business. The secret is in how you get from here to there.

It’s All About The Foundation

One of the biggest challenges that people in the CIO position are faced with is that that IT department already has a relationship with the rest of the business. In order to create a deeper, business based relationship you are going to have to find a way to transform this relationship into the one that you want to have.

What you are going to have to do first is to find a way to build credibility with the rest of the business. All too often IT departments are known for making big promises and then not being able to deliver them – or not deliver them on time. If you want to move your relationship with the rest of the company to the next level, then you’re going to have to change this. What you’re going to have to start to do is to under-promise and over-deliver.

Ultimately the key to creating a strong foundation for how you interact with the rest of the business comes down to good communication. Sure, you know how to use email, but that’s the wrong tool for getting the rest of the business on your side. Instead, you’re going to have to make the effort to meet face-to-face with other leaders in the company. This is how you can get the IT department involved in solving the company’s difficult problems.

Relationships Require Management

Once you’ve created a solid foundation and the rest of the company is willing to work with you, your work is not yet done. Instead, you now have a new set of tasks: managing all of those relationships. Relationships are wonderful things, but they won’t grow and mature if you don’t work at them.

One way to start this management of relationships is to change the way that the members of your IT department think. Right now they are all probably in a service-based mentality. This means that they are focused on the next IT project that they’ll be working on. What you are going to want to do is to change this so that they are being measured by different metrics. Meet with other departments and find out what they want their IT department to be doing. Once you have this you can create a new set of metrics by which to measure the success of your department.

Your relationships with the rest of the company will change how the IT department interacts with the rest of the company. What this means is that as your IT team delivers what it has promised to it’s business customers, you’ll start to earn your spot at the company’s decision making table.

What All Of This Means For You

The time for an IT department to play the role of a technical support organization has come to an end. Going forward, CIOs are going to want their IT departments to become business partners to the rest of the company. In order to make this happen, they are going to have to become good at building bridges.

Reaching out to other parts of the company starts by building a strong foundation to base this relationship on. The best way to start to create this foundation is for the IT department to show the rest of the company that they can deliver projects on time and under budget. Once the foundation has been laid, the next step is for the CIO to start to manage the relationships with the rest of the company. Key to this is to create metrics that better reflect what the rest of the company wants out of the IT department.

Building bridges is not easy work. However, if the IT department is going to become a partner to the rest of the business, then the CIO is going to have to get busy. Taking the time to lay a solid foundation and to manage relationships will yield the results that you are looking for. Build some bridges and you’ll find that it’s easier to get to where you want to go!

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

Question For You: Which departments should a CIO start to build bridges to first?

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

This CIO job never came with any instructions. Now that we have the CIO job, we are expected to know what to do, when to do it, and who to involve in doing it. I can only speak for myself, but I sure would like to have the opportunity to talk with someone who really knew what they were doing. Somebody like Ben Fried, Google’s CIO, probably does know what he’s doing. Maybe he’d be willing to share some of his insights with us…

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