Oh I See! Getting CIOs to view their jobs from a different angle

Feb 22 2010   7:54AM GMT

What keeps the CIO awake at night?



Posted by: Arun Gupta
Tags:
CIO
CIO Metrics
What keeps the CIO awake at night

Do CIOs sleep well, or they are subservient to problems, issues, alerts, emails, etc that keeps them away from their 40 winks? I have been asked this question many a time, and then some more. So it does make me wonder whether CIOs are indeed a sleep deprived lot. So let’s track down the issues that CIOs grapple with (the current perception at least—in many cases, also the truth).

If business runs on IT, then system availability will be first on the list. This is a combination of network, server, applications, and everything in between. Do CIOs get nightmares about downtime? I guess a few do, but most don’t, as their deputy (or the Head of Infrastructure), along with the application owners will typically be tasked with this. The ball does indeed stop at the CIO’s desk, but rarely contributes to insomnia.

Second on the list is that of critical projects meeting expectations on the fronts of budget, time and quality. In a few cases, this will also include delivering business value. These deliverables also get discussed in management meetings, and thus have higher visibility within peer CXOs (and to that extent accountability, with the CIO). When projects do go awry, it is quite likely that the CIO has to intervene and manage expectations (read as damage control). So it is likely that challenged projects may adversely impact the CIO’s ability to have a good night’s rest, unless if the CIO is on top of the situation as the project unfolds. In such situations he can obviate the need for uncomfortable dialogue.

What about budgets? In times of cost cutting and most businesses coming out of survival mode, also referred to as the ‘new normal’, there is indeed pressure to think out of the box to sustain operations at lower costs, while finding innovative ways to fund new projects. Relationships with partners and vendors have now reached a new plane, which discards most benchmarks from the past. While many CIOs are able to balance the investment versus cost debate, some dread the thought of another discussion with the CFO. However, this contribution towards the bedroom woes may be negligible.

Last on the list is talent retention or attrition, depending on how one looks at it. In bad times, people stay, in good times when you need them, they leave. It’s a simple demand and supply equation that CIOs have to struggle with. While the supply may be plentiful, you cannot replace a DBA with a Business Analyst and hope to do well. Outsourcing can help de-risk partially. Thus, in the era of shrinking teams and increasing churn, the CIO’s ability to hold the team together goes a long way towards the IT organization’s success.  Probably something to keep the CIO awake on the day he receives one more resignation.

The reality is that one of these remains in focus for most CIOs. These focal points change periodically. At the same time, CIOs are focusing more on business measures and not IT focused ones. Maturity of the service delivery models, coupled with partner evolution (See: The evolving IT Service Provider), has contributed to some of these not being on the radar (as much as they were in the past). 

So do business issues like lack of growth, profitability of the company, supply chain issues, product or service availability keep the CIO from sleeping well? Probably as much it does to other CXOs in a cohesively knit enterprise.

I guess a wise man said it well, “Work pressure is real, but stress is optional”. So my answer to the questions has been, “I sleep well at night”—at least, most of the time!

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