What To Do When Everything That You Know Is Wrong

CIOs can be responsible for leading a company in to an economic stall
CIOs can be responsible for leading a company in to an economic stall

In most IT departments, everything is fine until it isn’t. Sometimes this is a result of actions that the IT department has either taken or not taken, sometimes it is a result of what’s going on in the company as a whole. No matter, everyone in IT is personally impacted when a previously successful company enters an economic stall and starts to streak towards the ground. How does an IT department end up in a situation like this and what can they do about it?

We’ve talked about some of reasons the companies and IT departments collude to enter a stall, things like being trapped by having a premium product, abandoning a core market segment too early, or just flat running out of good talent with which to lead the IT department. Some of you might be thinking that such strategic matters are beyond the scope of the IT department; however, I’d disagree. IT is an information collection and distribution organization and because of this we need to be the ones who fully participate in the company’s strategy discussions.

Studies done by researchers at The Executive Board, an executive think-thank, have shown that one of the leading causes of an IT department’s failure to notify a company of an impending revenue stall is IT management’s failure to align changes in the company’s external environment to the existing company strategy. This failure rests squarely on the CIO’s shoulders.

Just to drive this point home a bit more, it turns out that the assumptions that IT leadership teams have held for the longest period of time (or currently hold the most deeply), are the ones that are going to come back and bite them the hardest. One of the reasons that this happens is because during the annual review of the company’s strategic plan the CIO does not challenge the “assumptions and risk” section – he/she is willing to treat it as so much boilerplate and just let it go.

So what can a good CIO or IT manager do to help the company avoid an economic stall? It turns out that research in this area has reveled four best practices for detecting the red flags that signal that a stall might be coming up. We’ll talk about them next time…

Have you ever been working in an IT department where the CIO was an active player in planning the company’s strategy? How did the IT department support him/her as they did this – just collecting info or did you actually process it in order to turn the information into knowledge? Was the CIO accepted by the rest of the company or was he/she treated as an outcast? Leave a comment and let me know what you think.