What Questions About The Business Should A CIO Be Asking?

by drjim on October 19, 2011

To Get The Right Answers, You Have To Ask The Right Questions

To Get The Right Answers, You Have To Ask The Right Questions

As a CIO it can be all too easy to feel overwhelmed by the decisions that you have to make: mobile devices, clouds, security, arrrgh! The CIOs that I’m working with are looking for clear directions on what they should be spending their time on. My advice to them is that they need to pick a few key questions that are closely tied to the overall business. Once they can answer these questions, everything else will take care of itself. The key is to know what questions to spend your time answering…

Why Are You Using IT In Your Company?

Seems like a silly question for a CIO to be asking considering the importance of information technology, right? Turns out it’s not. What CIOs need to ask themselves is if their company is using IT technology to transform the business or if they are using IT to just add hi-tech bells & whistles to existing processes.

An example of this can be found in the rental car industry. The ability to drop a rental car off at an airport and be greeted by an employee who has the ability to print out a receipt for you on the spot used to be unique, but no longer is.

Using technology to provide this type of feature if you were the CIO for a rental car company would be viewed as being simply necessary – everyone else in the rental car industry’s IT sector is doing it.

As I tell my CIO clients, you need to take the time to not think about how to use technology in the business, but to rather think about how you can better serve the customer and then study how technology can help you do this. It’s this business level thinking that separates great CIOs from the just so-so ones.

In the rental car business, realizing that any sort of delay in picking up the car is time wasted for the client is a breakthrough thought. Using IT to have a car waiting for each customer with a GPS that was pre-loaded with where they wanted to go would be using technology to move the company forward faster.

Are You Ignoring Important Differences As You Standardize Processes?

One of the key initiatives at most companies for the last decade or so has been the standardization of processes. Trying to make as many of the company’s different products and services look the same within the company has been a goal. The motivation for this is that the more similar things look, the easier it is to streamline them and to reduce costs by combining various parts of the company to do the same tasks.

The problem with this approach is that not all products and services are the same. In fact, depending on where those products and services are being sold, the processes that are needed to support them may be very different.

CIOs in the IT sector have played a major role in the process standardization efforts. However, now that there is growing awareness of the importance in only standardizing the correct parts of the right processes, they need to use IT to do the right thing.

This includes taking the time to work with the rest of the business in order to determine what parts of each process are unique to the product or service that they support. The common parts that don’t add unique value can still be standardized, it’s only the special parts that will need customized IT support.

What All Of This Means For You

That whole IT / business alignment thing is so last year. Now CIOs need to be building on the importance of information technology and looking forward in order to find ways to help to move the company towards their goals.

This means that CIOs need to be the ones who are asking the tough questions. These questions include such things as is the company actually using IT technology to transform how they do business or are they just adding shiny bells and whistles to what is already there? Additionally, CIOs know that they need to help out in standardizing business process, but they need to be careful to not take this too far.

As I tell my CIO clients, you now need to be thinking like a businessman, not as a technology specialist. Find the right answers to these two questions and you’ll have found yet another way to show your value to the company.

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

Question For You: What questions can you ask to determine if an IT project is going to transform the company or just enhance it?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As a CIO it can be all too easy to feel overwhelmed by the decisions that you have to make: mobile devices, clouds, security, arrrgh! The CIOs that I’m working with are looking for clear directions on what they should be spending their time on. My advice to them is that they need to pick a few key questions that are closely tied to the overall business. Once they can answer these questions, everything else will take care of itself. The key is to know what questions to spend your time answering…

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