CIOs Need To Always Be Experimenting

The way that you become a better CIO is by experimenting
The way that you become a better CIO is by experimenting
Image Credit: Steve Jurvetson

How good of a CIO are you? I’m willing to bet that no matter how good you think that you are, you also realize that you could probably be better. We all believe this. However, now we run into the big question: how can a CIO become better? It turns out that the answer is actually fairly simple to understand even if it’s hard to do: you’ve got to do some experimenting.

What Experiments Can Reveal To A CIO

One of the biggest challenges that I see new people with the CIO job trying to deal with is their belief that they need to be perfect in part because of the importance of information technology. That they can’t make the wrong decision – ever. This is, of course, not true. We all make mistakes and just because you have become a CIO does not mean that you will now magically become a perfect decision maker.

Instead, you need to view the CIO job as providing you with a license to take action to discover what the best solutions to a wide variety of different problems are. You won’t always guess at how to solve a problem correctly. However, the fact that you made a guess and that you tried it out is exactly what you need to do as a CIO.

This process of taking a look at a problem, coming up with a way that the IT department might solve it and then taking steps to implement your plan is called experimentation. Running experiments is what being the CIO is all about. You have a unique position in the company in which you have access to a great deal of data. You need to use this data to design and monitor experiments in which you have the IT department try out novel solutions in order to see if they solve problems.

How A CIO Can Run Experiments

Deciding that you need to run experiments in order to investigate what the best solution to particular set of IT problems are is a good first step. However, it’s not going to be enough. Instead, you are going to have to learn how to run experiments in order to make sure that you are getting the answers that you need and not just wasting your time.

The right way to set up an experiment that you want the IT department to run is to very clearly define what you want to test. This will involve identifying the problem to be solved, just exactly what the IT team is going to do, and what the expected outcome is. You’ll quickly discover that you may not get the outcome that you were expecting; however, that will provide you with even more information.

While the experiment is being conducted it is your job as CIO is to keep track of the progress of the experiment. This means that you’ll need to set up a plan with the team for them to provide you with regular updates on the progress of the experiment. As the CIO you have the authority to cancel the experiment if things start to go really wrong. Likewise, if you continue with the experiment to the end, you’ll need to hold a wrap-up meeting to review what has been learned and to plan your next set of experiments.

What All Of This Means For You

As the person in the CIO position you don’t know everything (sorry). What this means for you is that you need to come up with a way that you can test your ideas out in order to confirm the ideas that are good and discard the ones that are bad. What this means for you is that you’ll need to start conducting experiments.

Experiments allow you and your IT teams to try out new ideas. You’ll need to carefully plan out the experiments that you’ll perform. You’ll need to understand the experiment’s objectives, how it will be performed, and what you expect the results to be.

Getting good at conducting experiments will allow your IT department to appear as though they always have the right answer for the rest of the company. What they’ll see are the experiments that are successful and what they won’t see are the ones that you canceled or discarded because they didn’t pan out. Use experiments to become a better CIO.

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

Question For You: How many experiments do you think that a CIO can have going on at the same time?

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

The person with the CIO job needs to understand that his or her company is under constant attack. Yes, some of the attacks come from hostile hackers who are always probing your company’s IT defenses trying to find a way in; however, we must not forget the impact that severe weather can have on the operations of both our IT departments and our company. Clearly, CIOs need to learn how to defend their departments and their companies against all the bad guys…