Tough Decisions That CIOs Have To Make

CIOs realize that some decisions are much harder to make
CIOs realize that some decisions are much harder to make
Image Credit: Tim Rizzo Follow

So if you look back on the day that you become a CIO, you need to remember that nobody ever told you that this was going to be an easy job dealing with the importance of information technology. One of the reasons that being the person in the CIO position is such a tough job is because of all of the important decisions that you are expected to make. The impact of your decisions will affect the lives of everyone who works in your department and may impact the company for years to come. There is a lot riding on what you decide to do. Feeling any pressure yet? What are the biggest decisions that CIOs are expected to make and what are the best way to make these decisions?

Which Projects Are The Most Important?

It is the responsibility of the person with the CIO job to decide which projects to work on now and which ones to put on hold. But those decisions can hinge on priorities established by your top management, who are not always as well informed as they could be. Often times CIOs will be asked to implement projects that they don’t view as being a high priority, but which their senior management does.

What a CIO is expected to be able to do is to prioritize initiatives to deliver the highest return on value. This can be one of the hardest aspects of your job. This type of decision requires you to realign with changing business needs, which often means picking winners and losers. The end result of this is that it will leave some of your internal stakeholders unhappy because you don’t have the resources to support their projects.

What CIOs need to realize is that for their most important projects to become a priority — and get funded — the C-suite needs to know about them. CIOs need to understand and embrace the value of communicating their team’s contributions to the business. If you can do this, then the decision makers in your company will be able to see your business value proposition for the company.

To Outsource Or Not To Outsource

CIOs understand that their IT department will eventually reach a point where there is more work to be done than they have people to do it. When this happens, it is going to be the responsibility of the CIO to get some more help for the department. Instead of staffing up, many CIOs turn to third parties. But when and how to outsource is not as simple as it looks as we all know.

Bringing in additional workers from outside companies does not always help things to go smoothly. The amount of code that outside workers churn out can create bottlenecks in the review process. And because the outside workers are located in different geographies, managing outside personnel and remote connectivity can be a challenge.

In order to make the best use of outside talent, you need to know how best to get them to work with the people that you already have on your team. If you can make the final deliverable smaller in scope, better defined, and independent of core product development then your chances of success are much greater. Your greatest success will come when you can encapsulate work and send it off to a development machine. Outsourcing work is tricky to do right, but if carefully managed, it can be a powerful tool for CIOs to use.

Carefully Promoting Staff

Undoubtedly one of the most difficult decisions that a CIO has to make has to do with promoting workers in the IT department. What a CIO wants to do is to reward employees who excel by advancing them within the organization. However the challenge comes when you realize that they aren’t the best choice for a new role.

The ultimate question that comes up when there is a position to be filled is if you’ll fill that role using an internal candidate or if you’ll go looking outside of the company for someone to take over the role. This can be a big deal for everyone involved. If you choose to promote an internal candidate, then it incentivizes team members to work towards their career objectives and helps with retention and morale.

For each position that you have to fill, you need to evaluate what the role requires and what any of the internal candidates bring to the table. What you are going to be looking for are people who are good technical leaders. If they have already been promoted within the company multiple times, then that is also an indication that they have been able to show real leadership capabilities. However, you’ll need to balance this against roles that require individuals with proven experience and an execution track record.

What All Of This Means For You

The ability to make tough decisions is one of the reasons that you were selected to be your company’s CIO. You are the one who is making the decisions that determine where the IT department will go and how the company will compete with other firms in the future. Not only do you have to make the difficult decisions, you also have to make them correctly. Just exactly how can you go about doing this?

One of the most important types of decisions that a CIO has to make is regarding which of the possible projects that the IT department can work on are the most important. Communication with your senior management is one of the most important ways that you can determine which projects need to be worked on right now. When there is too much work to be done, outsourcing of IT work becomes a possibility. The CIO needs to determine how the work performed by outside workers will be integrated with the work that is being done by employees. Finally, when people perform well, the CIO needs to determine if they should be promoted. Even though somebody may be deserving, they may not get promoted if they are not a good fit for the position.

In every decision that a CIO has to make, there will be winners and there will be losers. CIOs understand this and it serves to make the process of making decisions all that much more difficult. We know that we are responsible for making good decisions that will enable the IT department to become even more valuable to the rest of the company. What we need to do is to understand the types of decisions that we are being called on to make and then take the time to carefully make the right decisions. This can be done, CIOs just need to make sure that they are thinking through all of the decisions that they make.

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

Question For You: Do you think that a CIO can change their mind after they have made a decision?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

So just exactly what does it take to be a successful CIO? I think that we can all agree that one of the key traits that the person in the CIO position needs to have is the self-confidence to deal with issues related to the importance of information technology. If we don’t believe in ourselves, then who will? Self-confidence is how we make decisive decisions and support and challenge the members of our team. However, if we have too much self-confidence, then it can turn into overconfidence. When we are overconfident then the person with the CIO job can become arrogant and alienate the members of our team. How can we tell if we have too much of a good thing? Simple – by answering some important questions.