The CIO's Calendar: October is the Time to Plan for Investments in Your IT Team


By Don Desiderato

This is the second installment in our new monthly blog series, The CIO's Calendar, in which we'll give you insights on how to plan your time in the month ahead as you look to allocate resources and develop new initiatives. In this installment, we explore the items that every CIO should have on the calendar for October 2011 in order to prepare for your long-term needs.

CIOs are often so concerned about being business focused that they forget about investing in their own IT organizations. Given that budget season is in full swing, October is the time to capture and quantify the needs of your IT team. Consider it as the time to think about yourself - for once.

Investment in IT can be thought of in a variety of ways, so let's touch on the most important areas.

However, before we do, let's remind ourselves HOW to talk about the needs of the IT organization. Articulating an investment in technology - or any project - must be done in the context of business priorities. It is a skill that must be developed, even for the most technical of IT needs. By contrast, if you approach your needs by saying "It has to get done -- it's just the cost of running IT," then your credibility could suffer. Even a boring technology refresh or infrastructure upgrade has to be put in business terms. If you are able to concisely demonstrate technology's worth to your organization with a solid business case, you will earn the respect of executive leadership.

When it comes to considering your critical investment in IT, let's start by evaluating these two important categories:

  1. People/Sourcing Investments: One of the more complicated aspects of running IT is managing the year-to-year resource needs based on changing project priorities (spoiler alert: that's the topic for next month's CIO Calendar Blog). The challenge is that the skill sets required for 2011 projects may be completely different than the skill sets required for priorities in 2012. A good CIO needs to be nimble enough to manage variable staffing and ramp your staff up or down appropriately. By focusing on a variable staffing model - a multi-sourcing strategy that balances a mix of full time employees, domestic consultants, and off-shore consulting, you will have much more success in making the necessary staffing adjustments. So, when considering investment in IT, think about the tools that you need in order to enable this nimbleness. Tools that capture the specific skill sets of your human resources, forecasting tools, and even automated testing tools are essential for IT organizations. The costs for technical training for your employees should also be considered.
  2. Technology: This is probably the easiest to capture, since it is tangible. Areas such as infrastructure updates, PC/laptop refreshes, software upgrades, and IT productivity tools are examples of technology upgrades that must be scheduled and executed upon. The thing about investments in technology is that a business unit will not authorize everything that you as the CIO want or need. So, a prioritized multi-year list of items with a business case for each (even if very brief) is important for planning purposes. Investment in strategic technology should also be included. For example, if your strategic priority is enabling the mobile workforce, then R&D requests involving tablet devices, mobile, and wireless are all items that must be considered.
The goal of these investments is to have an IT shop with the appropriately modern technology that offers the biggest benefits to the business.

About the Author

Don Desiderato is a Principal with Novarica and former Divisional CIO. He is a regular contributor to CIO Insight.


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