Should CIOs Use Contests To Get The Job Done?

CIOs know that everyone likes a good contest
CIOs know that everyone likes a good contest
Image Credit

Let’s face it: there are some problems that an IT department faces that despite the importance of information technology are just tough to solve. As the person in the CIO job you’ve got to find solutions to these types of problems, but you also have to manage the time and the cost that it’s going to take to find a solution. Hmm, there’s got to be a better way. How about using a contest to find the answers that you are looking for?

Why CIOs Are Using Contests To Solve IT Problems

CIOs and their IT departments face a number of different challenges. Some of these issues are big: they don’t look like the traditional types of problems that the IT department is used to solving. In order to find solutions to these types of problems, CIOs are going to have to bring in talent from outside. The question is should you use high priced consultants or should you try to ask anyone who wants to help out to give it a try?

The fancy term for running a contest is called “crowdsourcing”. This is when the collective abilities of many (think thousands) of people are harnessed to search for a solution to a problem. There are a number of firms that have popped up that can help coordinate a contest when a company wants to ask the world to help with one of its tricky IT issues.

The best kind of IT contests to throw are ones that require a lot of data to be analyzed. A major airline recently ran a contest in order to find out how to organize their routes in order to make the company more efficient. An insurance company ran a contest to sort through its claims data in order to determine which customers were more likely to make claims based on what type of car they drove.

How To Throw A Contest

As you might guess, throwing a contest using the company’s data comes with a lot of rules that the CIO is going to have to follow. One of the biggest issues that you’re going to have to deal with is the fact that the contest is going to be using company data. This means that there is a risk that you could expose either sensitive information or the company’s strategic plans if you aren’t careful.

In order to ensure that you don’t divulge too much sensitive information, you’re going to have to take several steps. One such step is to mix with the data information from other sources so that the contest will be using blended data. Next you’ll have to scrub the data that is being used in the contest of any private or proprietary information. If there is any customer related information you’ll have to be doubly careful to strip any personal information out of the data used in the contest.

Sometimes the data contains important private information that can’t be removed. When this occurs, you can mask the data. In the case of the insurance company, they replaced specific car types with a number and made the horsepower measurement value a variable. This allowed the data to be used in the contest without giving too much confidential information away.

What All Of This Means For You

Every IT department has a set of what everyone considers to be a “big challenge”. This set of problems can’t be solved using the normal tools that the person in the CIO position has available to him or her. That means that the option of using a contest to solve them needs to be considered.

If you choose to use a contest, then you are going to have to be very careful. You’re going to want to open the contest up to as many people as possible so that you increase your odds of getting good solutions. Next you need to make sure that the data that you release for the contest doesn’t contain any confidential company information. Do this right and you may be able to solve challenging IT problems quickly and at a lower cost than other options.

Innovation is what IT departments everywhere are being urged to make use of. Using contests to solve difficult IT problems is a great example of using “out of the box” thinking to find the answers that the IT department is looking for. Used carefully contests just might be the winning solution that CIOs have been looking for.

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

Question For You: How long do you think that you should allow a contest to run for?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental Successful CIO Blog is updated.

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

Yea! The global economy is improving and that means that good things are going to be coming to the IT department because the rest of the company has finally come to realize the importance of information technology. Specifically, since you have the CIO position, it’s going to be time for you to whip the IT team into shape in order to take on all of the new initiatives that the company is going to be preparing to rollout. What this means is that you are going to be given an opportunity to build the IT workforce of tomorrow. Do you have any idea how to go about doing this?