Saturday, February 22, 2014

Interview Questionnaire Set for New CIOs

The Well framed Questions can Help Leaders Contemplate their Role More Profoundly!

It’s the time for planning, change, and transformation, either you are a current CIO or prospective CIO; CIO promoted through IT rank or an unconventional CIO taking the different path, here are set of the questionnaire for interview preparation or contemplation more profoundly upon CIO role.  

Q1: Why do you want to be a CIO?

It is based on the passion you see in the eyes of the individual answering it. Do they have a passion for what they are doing? Will they have a passion about the vision and mission of the enterprise? Will they have a passion about the employees in their charge? Do they have a passion for success, and know how to envision what that should look like? Do they have a passion for being a CIO?

The question is about leadership, not technology. CIO as senior executive is a leadership role, leadership is an influence. First, ensure to have the right leadership quality; a good combination of leadership skills, ability to manage the organization dynamics, ability to convey the vision, communicate up, down and alone with peers, ability to craft a dynamic IT strategy which is integral component of business strategy, ability to handle IT spend, etc.

Every CIO has a first time of being a CIO, When one knows why they want to take on one of the most important positions in the organization, it will reflect whether they are prepared to do so. Being a leader is important. Of course, there are different kinds of leadership styles, a thought leader, a business strategist, a visionary or a talent master,  today’s CIOs have to wear multiple hats. Ensure first, you have the right leadership qualities, and then seek after the technical competence. When you find the individual that has both, you have found the individual that is the right hire.

Q2: What’s your understanding regarding the nature of the business or the company?

At that level, they need to have a certain level of understanding and insight of the business they will inevitably be partnering with.  How can you help the business increase revenues, decrease costs, improve customer service, be compliant, and secure? In other words, how can you apply technology to benefit the business?

The candidate can bring viewpoint from customer’s perspective or investor’s point of view, to identify some strengths and weakness you have viewed. If you’ve been loyal customer of the company, the prospective CIO can bring fresh insight from outside-in customer view, as being a customer champion is one of the characteristics of digital CIO today. This question also gives an opportunity to gain a different perspective on what the corporation may be doing right or wrong and the interviewer perspective. In addition, it shows how the future of CIO would represent the corporation in front of customers. Did they take the interview seriously and prepare or they opted to do the later and not take the time to prepare for the interview. 

This question says they have researched the organization have a general understanding of the companies ‘mission, vision, budgets, structure, and operation. A perspective CIO should have a good idea of some on-going key issues in a company before attending an interview that she/he could address. When preparing for an interview, it's always a good idea to scour the Web for company news, and read the last filed company accounts - plus read up on the company's closest competitor news too, so you've got a good idea as to how they're really faring.

Q3: How will you correlate your capabilities with company's vision? 

After walking through the first two questions, this question will help recruiter in exploring the wide array of capabilities and knowledge that some one will bring to the organization.

  • Strategic Thinking: The title isn't what makes someone a CIO or not, rather it's their mind and capabilities. A CIO needs to be, first and foremost, a strategic thinker - with a good knowledge of technology and, more importantly, the ability to be able to connect the dots by proposing ways in which the business can use technology to create strategic advantage.
  • Gap Identification: This question will help in evaluating the logical thinking of the prospective CIO who will try to explain the gap that she/he can fill in the organization, be it resource gap, knowledge gap, quality gap, or capability gap. Based on your findings what recommendations do you have and how do you plan to achieve results? The most important thing is his/her knowledge, understanding, capabilities, and leadership that will be realized by answering the question related to building the IT Strategy, the Planning and the Execution of it in alignment with the business goals and objectives
  • CIO’s Insight: This question will help know the person's interest in the organization as she/he will also be explaining you about your organization's vision and strategies, which is an essential part of any interview preparation process. This question will help know the person's awareness of self-adequacy, knowledge, thinking process, experience, responsibilities undertaken Her/his answer will automatically fall into how she/he sees the role of the CIO, who can speak in depth about information and its importance to the business rather than about technologies and how great they are. 
  • Culture Influence: What moral booster (innovation, etc) are you able to bring into this organization that would maximize profits/productivity/personalization?
The most important question is the one that determines if the candidate can do the job and solve the most important needs and/or pains. The question will vary from one interviewer to another and depend on each individual’s perception of the problem, their relationship with that person, where the business is at in its cycle and what the business is trying to accomplish.

Q4: What Qualities make you an Effective CIO?

That depends on what the single most important competency is for that position within your company, leading change, execution, strategy, driving innovation, global acumen, etc. What are the specific things in which the CIO needs to excel in order to be successful within your company?

  • Passion: To give their absolute best in the job. CIO job involves solving and working with a variety of challenges. The CIO might not always know all the answers - but it is this passion that will drive the candidate to learn and find out and work towards the best solution for all stakeholders. Followers like people that are passionate about their job. On the other side, when making decisions, CIOs need to have enough distance in order to choose what is best for the company and not what they like better.

  • Vision: CIO as a senior business executive, needs to have vision upon business and IT. We do not live in a utopia, but a dystopia, as such, there is always motion, or as we know it, an ever changing environment. Since change is the order of every day, embracing and harnessing its power the step towards sustainability, a leader, any leader, must know how to create a vision to accomplish that. Creation of vision takes passion, for without passion, the vision is devoid of organizational objects that will create growth. A great many CIOs were placed because of technical competence but lacked the ability to create a vision that their people could support. It is not enough to tell those folks, we do what we do because the business needs us. That is not a vision; it is simply a reason for maintenance. Vision is the ability to see growth and increased productivity within an organization. All else are tools in the leaders toolbox. Knowing why you want to use that toolbox is the first step in creating a viable vision.
  • Strategy: CIO is part of senior leadership team whose role is to drive strategic thinking, strategic planning and strategic execution, as a team they must leave their silos behind and embrace collective thought. As a team they must distill strategy to one piece of paper so that it can be communicated and executed collectively. IT strategy is integral component of business strategy, keep it simple. CIOs need to be technology strategist and integrator, sometimes he/she runs the operations, align IT with business priorities (streamline business processes with technology support), but more often, technology also become a game changer, significantly drive business trends and directions.   
  • Promote and Execute Strategy: If every CIO is currently entrenched and aware of competition from outside the company, understand IT transformation from a cost center to value creator; from back office to innovation engine, they will be seeking ways to cement and fortify their positions as masters of value / profit. Thus, in order to become more effective in conveying the vision and strategy, today's CIO literally needs to have experience in sales and marketing within their market or similar in order to be fully effective. Intermediate knowledge of technology and software systems should be a baseline but having the knowledge of how to employ them to improve all areas of a company is not only key but rare, PCI, marketing, sales, web design, mobile realm, app design & integration, UX & UI mastery, when applied to monetization and behavioral modification, they have to be effective on both promoting vision & strategy, execute it collaboratively.

Q5: What’s your Technological Vision?

CIOs today need to be technology visionary for IT transformation, as in the past and in the future, technology will continue to change rapidly, and the speed of change is accelerating,  so  focused on three things.

  • Transform IT as business partner: What is your strategic vision for how IT will support the vision of our company. The answer will demonstrate some degree of homework about the company; provide an opportunity to discuss innovative ways to make IT a profit center. CIO is hired to enable the core vision of the hiring company. Most company's vision is to create and sell a product or service and in doing so - to create value for either shareholders or other stakeholders by increasing revenue from the sale of such products or services, and reducing the costs of production and delivery of these
  • Insight upon digital technology and methodology such as SMAC: What’re prospective CIO’s vision upon emerging digital technologies, and how could apply them to achieve business goals effectively? He/she should also therefore be able to talk about data, including Big Data and Business Intelligence, in an intelligent way, and should understand the challenges of using the Cloud to store information (not just the technical challenges, but for business transformation). 
  • SWOT Analysis: Based on analysis, identify technology solutions/ improvement opportunity so that best value is provided to customers.  Not only be giving the company recommendations on how to capitalize on its strengths, and use information and technology to mitigate its weaknesses, but also be delivering any transformation programs that need to be implemented as a result of such recommendations (if on board). 

Q6: What’s your management style, and how would you do to move IT organization forward?  How will you make senior management aware of IT need in the organization and how will you make IT resources be more aware of business drivers? Or how would you turn things from a cost center to a profit center?

This question says, will this person fit the cultural of the organization and can they lead the organization successfully. The questions that the interviewee asks the interviewing panel (and how he/she asks them) often say a lot about his/her level of intelligence, linguistic skills, common sense approach and sensitivity, and sometimes also highlights a presence or absence of past experience in similar backgrounds. Generally speaking, CIO shall spend significant time on strategy, the management style is more like coach, not a micro-manager. 

Management Philosophy/Technique: Ask if they favor internal control or outsourcing IT related tasks and service coverage; or cloud / SaaS /PaaS services. There are many factors help decide which way to go here. But regardless of the current environment and size of the company, having some insight on whether or not the candidate favors one over the other may tell you a lot about their management style, the level of creativity, intellectual curiosity, continuous involvement and perhaps more. Therese are all good things to know about a candidate that will potentially have huge business-impacting responsibilities.

Transformation Planning: The key for a CIO is the candidate’s ability to view technology as both a business and a service. If the candidate is able to identify the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats regarding the technology function the candidate will be well prepared to leverage technology as a value added services to the overall business. For instance, a common weakness to a technology function is that it is often view as an expense. This weakness can be strengthened by linking the value the line of business receives from implemented technology to offset the investment made in technology. This transforms technology from being a cost center to becoming a profit center as the profits reaped from the business are aligned with the technology organization. This type of thinking displays that a candidate has both the technology and business skill needed to build a strong technology offering.

This question will lead to discussions around following topics. As this touches on a lot of different paradigm shifts that must happen for IT to sit at the same table as the business.
-org structure and org systems
-leadership & management

Q7: How do you intend to set your priorities?

If CIO is one of the highest executive profile  in an organization, then It really does fall on that person to take the reins and forge solutions for the company that minimizes human labor and error while maximizing the tools and resources to other departments so that they can not only increase sales but also provide a solid customer service experience that yields positive feedback.

  • Well align with business strategy and supporting the needs of the business. Today too many companies have too many departments that are not tied together culturally, or even directed by a steering committee. The CIO's goals should be aligned with company goals. They can only be aligned with the CEO's goals if you actually have a discussion about the long-term plans for the company
  • Balance IT Role as business enabler and driver. Typically IT is seen as an enabler for business rather than driver for business. How does a CIO or IT Director draws a balance between the two is the question that can be asked. Given the fact we know a CIO is expected to be a trustful team player for the CEO (management or executive board), thus IT is to balance customer service and tech support with advancing the organization's business further... 
  • Setting Milestones for Digital Transformation: CIO must align with business providing information and knowledge to increase the effectiveness of decision making, identifying opportunities, and reaching objectives for each customer and person in the organization. This is the business value that the CIO and the IT department bring to the table. Leverage resources to achieve short term business goals, but set the milestones for long term digital transformation.
(Further questions to articulate IT management style and methodology):

Q9: How will you make senior management aware of IT need in the organization and how will you make IT resources be more aware of business drivers.
Businesses are not looking for a technical position, but one of the senior leadership team, an individual that understands the depth of how technical support and service apply to the given organization or venture, but first and foremost understands how to lead the people that will carry out those duties. Without a vision of how to move the organization forward, one is simply holding a positional title and never truly achieving forward momentum.

Q10: How do you differentiate between transactional IT and transformational IT?
Hear from the applicant is how he/she can use existing information (or perhaps access new sources of information) to transform the business. How do you see the goals that a CIO has to meet, and how would you organize to get to realize them?

Q11: What are your thoughts on measurement criteria for transformational IT? How do you measure the revenue creation opportunities for IT? Measuring IT is multi-dimensional effort, it needs to define the set of KPIs well reflect the result business concerns, rather than just internal IT parameters.

Q12: How would you create a framework for quantifying IT value to business?
How would you create a framework for assessing the need for transformative steps leveraging the value quantification framework?  Discuss modern approaches for obtaining and supporting infrastructure; managing a motivated workforce; and, supporting all aspects of the business.

Q13: Typically what is the most potent IT requirement for a forward-looking organization? What makes an organization future ready using IT. And how will you go about determining whether IT is a business partner or simply a service provider and why is this important. For detailed planning, the prospective CIO should be provided with a detailed business overview and an outline of the business five year plan and then asked to provide a outline of how they would achieve the stated objectives. 

Q14: What will you do to help the organizations customers succeed?
The only way organizations can succeed, is by helping their customers succeed and yet this seems to be completely ignored in all the responses Is it about targeting internal or external customers? ..Some might be out of CIO's normal area of targeted focus. Beyond "What have you done?" is a question, you may consider: "If you were CEO or President, what would you do?"

Q15: What's your strategic approach or perspective on gradually achieving this goal in the near feature while performing in the long run? 
Embrace innovation as a driver for cultural change. Is IT for you a business driver or a transformation and support aid and what does that mean for your strategic approach?
? Check the ability to be able to think outside the box, and propose solutions to a business that enables the business to achieve its strategic objectives

Q16: How will you create our IT Infrastructure to allow IT to help increase profitability?
IT can continue to be run as a cost center and provide resources or we can set-up IT to create a competitive advantage for us. The person acting as CIO is responsible for integrating technology in support of business "Intermediate knowledge of technology and software systems should be a baseline but having the knowledge of how to employ them to improve all areas of a company is the key

Q17. How can we be agile enough to meet demands of our environment today but not lock us out of changes that will be necessary tomorrow? How would you create an environment that will allow us to make quick changes as we see opportunities?

Q18: How will you encourage your senior IT staff to get out of their comfort zones and be more open to looking at disruptive technologies that will help us create that competitive advantage and move IT more into helping to generate bottom line revenue?
What leadership skills do you bring to the table that will bring a diverse group of technologists together with one singular purpose or goal; and once on that path what managerial experience do you have that will keep this momentum on track

Q19: What are the procedures and the important initial steps to be taken in the organization?  
This question will guide you of his/her ability and how he/she will lead the organization.
Armed with that information you should require the candidate to describe a time when he/she had to exercise that specific competency (probably several competencies) - Have them describe the situation. What action did they take? What were the results? What alternate actions would have yielded different results? 

Q20. What single project or task would you consider the most significant accomplishment in your career so far?
Look for the traits to reflect “I” in CIO’s title, such as influence, innovation, insight, improvement, intelligence, inspiration. Etc.

Q21: If you only have 60 days to transform this company from the IT standpoint, what would you do and more importantly why?
This question will provide a solid measure of (a) does the person truly know the company beyond the obvious (b) does the person have some sort of a plan (c) how well do they articulate the plan and (d) does the plan make sense or is it full of generic "hot air"

Q22: How would you gain pro-active support from executive peers for the IT department and its projects?
Understanding the cost of IT, the value add of IT and how this contributes to the bottom line of the organization is critical to gaining the financial support necessary to achieve strategic IT goals. Many have difficulty speaking to the quantifiable value that IT adds to the organization in order to gain financial support for initiatives. Know the core value and how it contributes to the bottom line will help gain financial backing of IT initiatives that further improve the bottom line. Given that the candidate understands the direction technology is taking and can articulate a vision, the key question is 'how to achieve the clarity necessary for balanced investment'

Q23: What’s your first 100-Day Plan?

Asking about the approach to the first 100 days is a solid question. Will show how prospective CIOs approach a new situation, how they would prioritize, where they see their role in relation to the business units, and how they would evaluate/improve the existing IT architecture .Sums up the essence of expected activities for the first 9-12 months and any reply along those lines will show the new CIO is a person who knows how to listen, understand, plan, and communicate. It then remains to be seen if he/she is also able to implement the plan

Listening: A new CIO will need time to understand the business before implementing any major changes. Any other expectation would be unrealistic and counter-productive. This is not to say that he/she should not be able to come up with a plan of action covering the first 6-9 months.

Communication: Communicating with IT staff to build a relationship with and understand such things as motivation, aspirations, any issues and grudges and so on. Communicate with manager within the organization (as practical), during which a two-way dialogue should take place, listening to the manager and providing assurance that what can be done will be done, but without raising false hopes. A review of the strategic plan for IT, with one of the outcomes being a prioritized plan of action with a road-map, it is critical that the plan and road-map can be understood by (or should be explained to) all the managers. A review of IT partnership., etc.

Plan: It is important to have an entry plan. You do not have the benefit of just meeting with people. There must be a purpose, a schedule and the plan should communicate to what you plan to provide them into the process. Each plan must be laid out according to key discussions with top management, that plan must be communicated with similar level and lower level staff so that they know you are purposefully seeking their input and are interested in helping them achieve their goals.

Develop an action plan: Look for low hanging fruit that can demonstrate your insight and ability to produce results, listen carefully, and move forward accordingly. Also be prepared to cut loose any dead weight. It takes a village. Cut unnecessary costs, streamline workflows, and watch the bottom line.

Further, for prospective CIO, the ability to think on your feet during an interview and deal with the unexpected question is something you have to be prepared for. For recruiters, CIO may not know how to fix the company at the interview stage. Any question asking for a crystal ball response sets the candidate up to fail; There should be a considered set of sensible and business focused questions in which the prospective CIO can give a wide ranging outline of how he / she would approach the objectives, and you can get the best results from interviews utilizing simple behavioral based interviewing techniques through the right set of question, to give ideas of the candidate’s strengths, approaches, vision, and presentation skills. As CIO is a leadership role, search for character, insight and leaning agility, besides skills and knowledge. It's not the title that makes someone a CIO, rather the capabilities and 'mind' of the individual; and the responsibilities of the role.


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