What Google’s CIO Can Teach Us About Becoming Better CIOs

by drjim on August 26, 2015

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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