New CIO? Assess IT with 5 Questionspost by Chris Curran on May 10, 2010
As a new CIO, you have two choices for learning about your organization. You can “hit the road” and meet with most or all of the leaders, stakeholders and a sampling of others to get a broad picture or along with the meeting and greeting you can focus your efforts on key functions and relationships to ferret out the problems. A broad approach will uncover issues but won’t allow you enough time to dig in before moving on to your next meeting. Furthermore, if your assessment is not done in the first 3 months or so, the honeymoon is over and the problems are yours, whether you know them or not. So, you have to get it done fast.
if your assessment is not done in the first 3 months or so, the honeymoon is over
At PwC, one of the common questions we get is how to assess the health or maturity of an IT organization. As good consultants do, we have developed extremely comprehensive models, assessments, questionnaires and tools to develop these assessments. But for a new CIO, you don’t typically have the time to devote to such a detailed and comprehensive assessment in your first 100 days. To address this, I’ve distilled our best thinking into 5 questions that can serve as a proxy for a more detailed assessment. With these 5 questions, you can develop a good view of what’s going on and where the hot spots are. And, as my friend Chris Potts suggests, each of these questions should consider the management, operational and technical implications when it makes sense.
5 Question IT Assessment for New CIOs
- Do business and IT leaders regularly interact?
- Has scope been cut for any of the top 5 projects (by spend)?
- Does the IT leadership group operate as a team?
- Are any of the top IT support issues recurring?
- Can business sponsors for top 5 projects describe the project’s business case in one sentence?
Do Business and IT Leaders Regularly Interact?
By regular, I don’t mean “Hey, nice to see you” in the coffee line regular. And, I don’t mean executive status meeting regular. I mean, is there a regularly scheduled time during which real issues are discussed and concrete planning is discussed - not in large groups, but one on one. I worked with an insurance CTO who had a weekly meeting with the head of strategy - now, we’re talking. Here are some of the regular meetings you should look for:
- CTO/chief architect - head of strategy
- CTO/chief architect - head of new product/service development
- Head of Apps - business unit/functional leaders
- Head of Ops/Infrastructure - head of customer service
- IT person responsible for people - head of HR/recruiting
- IT Controller - corporate controller
The other thing to explore is what kind of regular meetings your predecessor had with key leaders - CFO, Controller, Head of HR, business unit leads, etc.
Has Scope Been Cut for Any of the Top 5 Projects?
“On-time, On-Budget” has got to be one of the most over used and largely useless measures of project success. The reason is that many times this magic is done by cutting scope. In PwC’s 2010 Digital IQ survey, 60% of business and IT leaders said that their projects don’t regularly deliver their planned scope. So, just bypass the scope-budget metrics and go straight to the scope. Its the business capabilities that a project’s sponsor wants anyway. Cutting scope cuts business value and customer satisfaction.
Does the IT Leadership Group Operate as a Team?
As a follow-on to the first question, how regularly does the IT leadership team meet and interact? Are the meetings just the CIO’s staff meeting that follows a meaningless agenda or are they real issues-based interactions? The second part of this question is how well the team’s skills complement each other and how well each leader’s traits and skills align with their assigned jobs. Is the leader assigned to manage and track the IT portfolio really a better innovator and planner?
Are Any of the Top IT Support Issues Recurring?
MIT’s CISR’s research shows that firms who don’t have a stable service platform can’t do much else well. So, have a look at the top 10 or 20 high priority service tickets over the last few month and see if there are any patterns in who is logging the issues, what kinds of issues they are, how long they take to resolve, etc. You will also learn a lot about the organization’s attitude toward service, process maturity, staff, etc.
Can Business Sponsors Simply Describe Business Cases?
Every company has a different approach to business cases. One grocery company I worked with was satisfied with a “we know it’s a good project” to justify an investment (not advocating that, BTW). Instead of getting into the specifics, just ask the business sponsors to explain what they are getting out of the projects. See how simply they state the objectives, if there are any business metrics attached and make sure you can actually measure them.
With these 5 questions, you will learn about alignment, processes, projects, people, service and support and most importantly, business value. Let me know what you think and other ways you have seen CIOs get up to speed quickly.