It Takes A Strategic Execution Officer To Get Anything Done Around Here

by drjim on November 30, 2009

Image Credit CIOs Have Yet Another Hat To Wear: Mr. Make-Sure-The-Project-Is-A-Success

CIOs Have Yet Another Hat To Wear: Mr. Make-Sure-The-Project-Is-A-Success

We all dream of the day that we will get the nod to become CIO — finally we will have arrived. Or will we have? Take just a moment and think about all of those major projects that you’ve see during your career that started out with a bang and ended up failing and going away with a whimper. When you are CIO, things are going be different and that’s because you won’t just be the CIO, you’ll also be the company’s Strategic Execution Officer.

What Have I Signed Up For?

Business processes are like pit-bulls: they really don’t like change and if you try to change them, they are probably going to bit you really, really hard. This is one of the reasons that so many major company initiatives fail — nobody really wants to go to the effort to change.

What’s been missing for far too long has been a Strategic Execution Officer and since so many of today’s major projects involve the IT side of the house, who better to assume this role than the CIO?

In your future role as your company’s CIO / Strategic Execution Officer you will not only be responsible for making sure that the new IT systems go in on time, but also that the company’s processes and the behaviors of the staff are changed so that the new way of doing business actually gets implemented.

Sound challenging? It does to me. That’s why we need to reach out to researchers Dr. Jeanne Ross and Dr. Peter Weill who have taken the time to look into what four things a Strategic Execution Officer needs to do. Let’s see what they recommend.

Create & Manage IT Systems Used For Strategic Initiatives

A CIO will tend to look at a given project and search for ways to get it successfully implemented. A Strategic Execution Officer realizes that in order for the company to be successful, the core processes that allow the company to operate smoothly and efficiently need to be digitized.

This means not just one IT project, but potentially several need to be done in such a way that they support the company as it is today and as it will be tomorrow. Key components of this type of solution include a single well-managed database, a standardized development system that allows the creation of different applications to easily talk to each other, and a solid communications network so that workers can access the data and applications that they need from just about anywhere.

Become A Leader In How The Company Does IT Governance

The CIO / Strategic Execution Officer is the one person in the company who is best situated to see it all. This means that you are going to have to take an active role in the company’s IT governance process.

You are going to have to be able to make some hard calls when it comes to identifying what the company’s IT priorities are. On top of this, you will have to be able to communicate to others in the firm what the different trade-offs are to each decision.

Make Business Units Actually Use Digitized Business Processes

Time to play Mr. Tough-Guy here. As Strategic Execution Officer you are going to have to show up and make each of the company’s business units start to use the new digitized business processes once the implementation is done. This is not going to be easy to do.

We all know how this plays out: a project goes in and then half of the company finds a way to get their jobs done without using the new system because they don’t want to be bothered to learn how the new system works. You must not allow this to happen. If you have to take away the systems that are allowing them to work around the new system, then so be it.

Create Both Structures And Initiatives That Make The Company Change

Making the entire IT organization ultimately report to the Strategic Execution Officer solves the problem of how to motive the IT staff to follow through on a company-wide change. In firms that have multiple CIOs, this is one way to quickly solve a lot of common structural problems.

Getting the business unit leaders to sign up and agree to use the results of a multi-year IT project can be tricky. Identifying and removing real and perceived obstacles is one way to go about doing this. Another is taking the time to talk with each business unit leader in order to make sure that they understand why the change is happening and how they will benefit from it.

What All Of This Means For You

Becoming the CIO of your firm will be a major accomplishment in your IT career. However, far too many of us have become CIOs only to eventually fail at implementing some major company-wide project.

The reason that so many of these projects fail is because the company lacked a Strategic Execution Officer to see the project through from start to finish. This is a role that you are going to have to be willing to step up and play.

As the Strategic Execution Officer you will be responsible for coordinating projects that span the entire company. Your ability to be successful at doing this won’t rest so much on your technical skills as they will rest on you ability to motivate the business unit heads to participate in both the project and its final results. Good luck!

What will a Strategic Execution Officer’s biggest challenge be at your company?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Just imagine the day that you become CIO: you’ll be able to shed all of those past associations and friendships that have gotten you to this exalted position and finally you’ll be able to focus on what really matters: forging strong links with your company’s senior management. Well, sure, if you don’t really need to get anything done…

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