Just exactly how does an IT manager become a CIO? Is there some sort of magic wand involved in the process a la Harry Potter? Is there a secret book that gets opened and words of wisdom are handed down that allow the manager to finally fully understand the importance of information technology? Unfortunately not. All too often talented IT managers find themselves being thrust into the role of CIO with precious little training and almost no support network. They know that they need to change and grow into the role, but how?
Specialist To Generalist
When a manager takes on the CIO position, their world will change overnight. They go from being responsible for a single IT project or function to now being responsible for all of the IT activities in the company. In a word, this can be quite overwhelming.
The #1 mistake that most IT managers make when this happens is that they continue to spend too much time focused on what they know. We can all understand why this happens – you are now in charge of a lot of new functions that you don’t understand so you keep focusing on the things that you do know something about. What you need to do is to take a step back.
You need to understand that within the IT department there is going to be a collection of different groups that have to work together. It’s going to be your responsibility to find a way to make decisions that are good for the IT department as a whole – not just one project. At the same time you are going to have to be able evaluate the talent that is running each of the different groups in order to make sure that everything is operating smoothly.
Analyst To Integrator
In your old job as an IT manager, the company expected you to take a look at the data that you had either been given or collected and to then make decisions about what the next steps should be. Your job very much had to do with processing data and not so much with processing the people who work in the IT department. Now that you’ve become the CIO, this has all changed.
As the CIO you are going to be called upon to use your general knowledge of all of the things that the IT department does. This knowledge is going to be required because you’ll have to be spending your time recruiting, developing, and then managing the right people with which to staff your IT department.
Instead of spending your time drilling down based on data that you’ve been given, as the CIO you are going to have a different job to do. As CIO what you are going to have to be able to do is to balance the differing needs of each of the groups in the IT department. You are the one who is going to have to find ways to integrate the outputs of each group into the inputs of one or more other groups.
Tactician To Strategist
One of the biggest challenges that comes along with becoming the CIO is that it’s not immediately clear just what you are supposed to be spending your time doing. It can be very attractive to spend your time attending a lot of meetings and participating in the decision making that occurs in those meetings.
I’m not trying to tell you that doing that is not important. However, it may not be as important as what you should be doing. Your view of the IT department needs to change. As an IT manager, your focus was on the here-and-now. You worried about meeting the needs of your current project and what you needed to do to make that project be successful.
As CIO you need to start to take the longer term view. What this means is that you need to shift from thinking tactically to now thinking more strategically. You are going to have to be able to recognize patterns and then make good decisions for the IT department based on what you see.
What All Of This Means For You
The process of becoming a CIO is a transformation that an IT manager needs to undergo. Their old way of looking at the world needs to change. What the manager needs to understand is in what ways they are going to have to shift the way that they approach having the CIO job.
In order to make the transformation, the manager is going to have to start to focus on the business and move from being a specialist to being a generalist. Instead of working on discrete tasks, they will have to start to focus on how to integrate cross-functional teams. Finally, instead of worrying about short-term immediate issues, they need to expand their scope and focus on the longer-term goals for the company.
The good news is that it is possible for an IT manager to evolve into a successful CIO. However, it’s not going to happen overnight and it’s not going to happen without some effort on your part. The first step is to understand how you need to change and then the next step is to actually perform the changes. Now that you know what you have to do, take these steps and become the CIO that your company believes that you can be.
Question For You: How will you know when you have completed these three transformations to become a CIO?
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
In order to be a successful CIO, you need to be able to look at the world around us differently than everyone else. All of the things that you’ll be seeing will be the same things that everyone else sees; it’s just how you interpret the things that you see that needs to be done differently. Specifically, there are 3 ways that a CIO see the world differently than everyone else.