Thursday, March 6, 2014

CIO Succession: How to Pass the Baton Smoothly?

How smooth the executive transition is going reflects the maturity level of the C-suite and the organization as a whole. 

When the new CIO takes the position, what might he or she do to get off on the right footing? How shall he or she take the ‘inherent’ responsibility more confidently? To put it simply, how to manage the smooth transition between the previous CIO and the new CIO? 

Never blame the predecessor. Each "leader" has certain objectives and goals to achieve. These may be right for that time period or situation the organization finds itself in. The new CIO should come in, understand the issues, and define long-term objectives related to business goals and take action accordingly. Of course, there is no harm in praising your predecessor for the good he or she did either, and get as many support from him/her as possible. Indeed it should be a matter of principle to do so. Although it sounds like a cliché and probably is, one should always treat others as one expects to be treated.

A gap analysis would be a logical step to take on. Coming into any role, your focus should always be to identify the current state and start defining and planning for the future state that you will own or at least should own for better or worse. The new CIO may treat the first few weeks like a consulting assignment; his/her goal is to identify problems that need correcting. And don't ignore the report writing part of the consulting gig. Then treat the next few weeks like another consulting job to identify strategies to deal with the problems identified in the first report. Again, write it up. Now use the two reports to make the rest of senior leadership team to be aware of the issues and to get the resources necessary to fix things.

It is a rare opportunity for the new CIO to establish himself/herself with fresh eyes and an open mind. The opportunity comes with higher responsibility and hence higher risk too.The new CIO, need to take the opportunity to establish myself by doing the following: 
1) Get to know your team and begin to work on building mutual trust and respect and
2) Identify Strength Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) of the current state.
3) Have a clear view of what needs to be done
4) Create options and phased plans with clear timelines to tackle problems

The business and the team should be the focus. The strategy, therefore, should be centered on the standardized apps, robust integration, and common architecture to maximize longevity, supportability, and ultimately business outcome in the long term. The Strategic Plan and the enterprise architecture should then be the focus to articulate and capture the current state of the environment, and the areas of focus progressively replacing, enhancing, updating and consolidating into a roadmap for the division. This will be your guiding vision document to drive your budgets, priorities, resource levels and resource compositions and new engagements with an almost singular drive to achieve those targets. And this is as real opportunity for an incoming CIO to influence and underpin the IT functions well into the future. 

How smooth the executive transition is going also reflects the maturity level of the C-suite as a whole and the organization. In immature organizations, the tendency on the part of the executive leadership is to attack problems in silos and take the shortest and least costly route to address the symptoms. Over time, you end up with a technology architecture that is a hairball that has grown from short-sighted projects that can't sustain long-term performance or support company growth. The new CIO is responsible to mature the organization by constructing effectiveness frameworks and mechanisms that help the C-suite make decisions around technology as a means to unleash new business capabilities and thus, be seen as a long-term value investment rather than short-term cost hole.

It all depends on the size and complexity of the problems left behind. It is up to the new CIO to identify the issues, corporate policy and develop a plan to both get in compliance with corporate and keep their users happy. The opportunity is not without challenges as relationships must be built and credibility must be established quickly. The CIO must also garner the support to put the right people on the team to make the transformation happen. If the CIO can gain the support needed, effectively communicate the value of the roadmap and demonstrate value through quick wins, he or she will make it through the transition.

In all cases, the CIO needs to build relationships with the executive team and key business leaders as well.  Every CIO inherits a different technical environment, a workforce, and existing IT/Business relationships. What you definitely should try and get from your predecessor is a list of lessons learned, which can be very valuable and can help you avoid some pitfalls. This list should, however, be intelligently assessed, bearing in mind that everything is subject to individual perceptions. When the new CIO takes on the job, then you also take on the challenges of the job previous or new, it's, all the same, they need to get sorted. It doesn't matter who, when, what, where or how it happened just that it exists and it is impacting the business and need resolution. It does no one any good to bad mouth a predecessor and it doesn't fix the issues.
That all being said, it is important to manage a positive and smooth transition, there is not much value in placing blame, understanding how you got there and understanding as a team where you go is important. CIO’s job is challenging, which is perhaps a very reason you’d like to be a CIO, the new CIO needs to grasp the opportunity, stand at the right position and do the best for the company for long term.


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