Can you do it all? - The New CIO Series

The New iStock_000001401101XSmallCIO is a weekly article about the challenges facing today’s CIO as well as what can be done to prepare for future challenges.

I just read a ‘call for papers’ from Cutter IT Journal with the title “The Great Recession Fallout: Will CIOs Be Elevated or Exterminated?”  It doesn’t look like they’ve posted this latest call for papers on their website, but you should be able to find it there sometime soon.

While I’ve already been thinking about this topic for some time (an example can be seen in last week’s post titled “The Future of IT & The CIO“) it’s good to see  there are other folks thinking about the same thing.

A passage in the email really made me stop and think about what we (industry, IT & CIO’s) are doing.  Here’s what caught my eye:

No longer singularly pursuing either an innovation or an efficiency agenda, CIOs may now need to pursue both as their firms are driven by both the need for efficiency and the fear of having an obsolete business model. While CIOs have for some time been asked to contribute in strategic and tactical ways, has this recession pushed them too hard down both paths?

Take a look at that last sentence and think about it. We’ve been pushing (and been pushed) to do ‘more with less’ for quite a while now.  We are being asked to be strategic and tactical.  Our IT Staff are being asked to be both technical and business savvy at the same time.  This is a fact of life…but is it a reality?  Are we really able to do everything asked of us?

Can you really focus on the strategic and tactical at the same time?  Can you really expect your technical staff to interface with the business?  Have we cut our staffs and budgets so far that we’ve cut out ability to deliver real value? Are we running on empty these days?

Great questions (I think anyway).

Can you (or your team) really do it all?

There is a point at which you and your team become overloaded.  In a normal economy, this overload could be offset by hiring new staff, but in this recession there’s no new staff and many organizations aren’t bringing in new contractors either.  At some point, the overload becomes too much and you and/or your team need to pull back the effort or you’ll overload your circuits and burn yourself or your team out.  Just like the fuel gauge shown above, you and your team will be running on empty.

The New CIO needs to know when they can take on the extra work and responsibilities and when they need to push back at the organization to ensure proper staffing levels.

In addition, the New CIO must ensure that they have the right mix of IT staff.  If we’re being asked to be both strategic and tactical, you better have some folks who can do both.  If you have to interface with the organization, you better make sure you have IT staff who can interface with the business.

Lastly, as I’ve said before, in this age of doing more with less, the New CIO has to lead by saying no as much as they can.  The organization has to understand what the IT group is capable of and what will take additional staff and/or budget.

Keep your eye on your team and make sure they’ve got a bit of fuel left at all times.  Keep working hard and moving closer to your goals…but make sure you aren’t killing your staff.

Take a few minutes and ask yourself and your team: Can you really do it all?  If the answer is no, start building a business case for what needs to change, how it needs to change and why. That business case needs to land on every leader’s desk within the organization and you’d better drive hard to make the changes necessary.  If you don’t you might just find yourself looking at a staff who’s running on empty and an economy that has just moved out of the recession…and you’ve got no way to do what needs to be done to take advantage of the changes.

That said, if your organization was working right, the recession would be the time to invest in additional staff and projects…not cut staff and projects.  But that’s a topic for another post 🙂

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