The CIO's Calendar: September Means Strategy


By Don Desiderato

This is the first 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 September 2011 in order to prepare for your long-term needs.

At this time of the year, the typical CIO is in the middle of a firestorm. Projects are deep into the delivery phase, project and operational issues are inevitably emerging, and requests for late-stage and unplanned projects are cropping up with end-of-year completion demands.

So, what should you be doing now? Thinking about next year. Yes, that's right, thinking about next year. Your leadership team is fully capable of managing these complex day-to-day issues (with your guidance), so looking ahead is precisely what you need to be doing right now.

Most companies begin the annual budget process in August with a conclusion in the November/December time frame. Within this financial context, September is the time to look forward with a clear mind and strategically assess your organization. Now is the time to assemble a small group of smart internal people to assist with this thought process.Here are some suggestions on who to bring into the team:

  1. Enterprise architect. Typically, your enterprise architect will help paint a picture of what investment is needed in technology.
  2. Portfolio manager, PMO or project manager. This executive will help you understand your demand -- and therefore, your long-term staffing needs.
  3. Human resources. HR will help you re-assess performance issues and high-performing employees
  4. IT leadership. These executives will help contemplate any organizational changes needed
  5. Budget manager. This executive will help you confront the realities of the upcoming budget cycle.

Why is this so important? Because it allows you to do two things:

  • Make mid-year course corrections; and
  • Keep you focused on what's important -- the long-term future for the IT organization.

Course Corrections: Mid-year course corrections are important and often ignored given the high workload. This is the time to re-assess any HR issues and high-performing employees. If you have poorly performing staff members, you owe it to them, and yourself, to provide timely feedback on their progress. High performers need to be continually assessed for promotions or more challenging assignments. This is also the time to assess your current budget run rate, whether you need additional (or fewer) staff members, or need new project approvals. Any and all of these areas may result in course corrections.

Focus on the Future: The CIO's primary responsibility is to plan and guide the future for the IT organization. Business leaders expect this, and IT organizations crave it.

The CIO should always be working on two "live" documents.

One of these is the State of Technology document, which is your view of the technology's current state and the needs for the future based upon business aspirations. This document will give executive leadership confidence that IT can grow and evolve as the business grows.

The other document is the Year in Review. This should track the successes and failures of the year, share the lessons learned, and detail how the organization performed based on objectives and metrics set in place in the previous January.

Both documents should be maintained throughout the year so that they can be distributed in early Q1.

All of this strategic planning will result in a well-crafted strategy for 2012 by mid-Q4 2011. At that time, you will be able to communicate the future of IT with confidence -- to both executive leadership and your own IT organization. Happy planning.

About the Author Don Desiderato is Principal with Novarica and a regular contributor to CIO Insight.