Today, CIOs have an exceptionally hard job. They are tasked with turning a traditional cost center into a value driver, and often doing so with less financial and human resources than ever before. This tightening of budgets is already beginning and looks set to worsen. In a recent report by Gartner it was predicted that IT spending will fall by around $300 Billion in 2020, that is a drop of 8% globally.
In addition to this, as a possible recession looms and the effects of the current pandemic continue to force companies to scale back their workforce and become increasingly digitalized, CIOs are under a huge amount of scrutiny and pressure. Their teams too are under pressure, as companies become ever more reliant on the digital infrastructure and support of IT employees, leading to increasing demands, higher expectations and fewer resources.
The tech landscape has also undergone rapid and dramatic change in recent years. As IT moves to cloud services, CIOs are faced with another mountain to climb. The huge number and variety of different technologies and options available to them to build and manage their IT infrastructure can be overwhelming. It is not surprising that many CIOs are given to making huge decisions based on whatever technology is particularly in vogue at the time without pausing to think about what their needs truly are.
Inevitably this can mean that smaller, more cash-strapped organizations end up using overly convoluted, complex and costly technology. So what can CIOs do to inspire their teams and leverage technology in a way that will drive change that will turn into business value?
Choosing the right tech
Firstly, the prudent CIO needs to take a step back and reassess. They need to try to block out the hype around all of the different tools and technologies that are available to them and determine what is appropriate for their specific needs. Whilst moving increasingly to the cloud, it is worth remembering that many of the tools, practices and platforms that have emerged from the cloud-native community were built and developed by some of the largest technology companies on the planet. This means, they were developed to specifically address the kind of issues that only companies at such scale are faced with. CIOs therefore need to consider whether tools and platforms will actually provide value if deployed within their organisations.
A few of the questions they should be asking themselves are:
- Will this deployment shift costs in the short or long term?
- What is the immediate benefit for my workforce productivity?
- For my infrastructure productivity?
- What is the lifespan of this investment?
Inspiring their team
Once CIOs have made decisions on which tools and platforms are to be deployed, the most important thing they need to do is get buy-in from their IT management teams. The technology deployed should complement the teams who will be using it, and the teams themselves need to understand the decisions made by their CIO and understand the vision behind it. This means including them in the decision-making process from the beginning and “bringing them along” as you do. The smartest CIOs identify the challenges and know the tools they want to purchase, and then work with their teams to clarify that decision prior to purchase.
Employees in any industry need to understand not just what they are doing, but why they are doing it – IT service teams are no exception. If the whole team is working towards the same goal, and even better, believes in the vision that you, as the CIO, are trying to achieve, then you are working as one cohesive unit.
The biggest mistake I see CIOs make is to focus on the problem set rather than the solution set. It’s natural for a senior leader to be in “problem solving” mode, but the way to inspire a team isn’t to focus on the problem: it’s to identify possible solutions and rally around them. The best CIOs know this and use that approach to drive buy-in and help ensure a purchase will not only serve its intended purpose technically, but also socially across the business.
Bringing it all together
It is a universal truth that a team that is inspired and is working together to accomplish a shared goal has a far greater chance of success than one that isn’t. In IT, central to this is ensuring that teams understand why they are doing something and why they are using a particular tool, platform or process.
It is incumbent therefore that CIOs have the confidence when making deployment decisions, that what they are deploying serves the intended purpose and creates tangible value.
Unnecessary complexity ultimately leads to unnecessary cost. If the CIO can articulate why a deployment was made and how it contributes to the overall mission of their organisation they are setting themselves and their teams up for success as they continue to grow and scale.
- Paul Heywood, CRO, Puppet.
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