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The First 90 days of the CIO in a new organization

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By Umesh Mehta, President and CIO, PI Industries

Businesses appoint qualified CIOs or Digital leaders to make technology the base of their organizational growth. In the present era, digital transformation is in full swing, and most of the companies are completely or partially tech-driven.

As a new IT leader, you have to understand the organization quickly. What is the IT landscape, what are the main initiatives, and where are the constraints? What is the usage and efficacy of the IT platforms, how well does the information technology fulfill the requirement and expectations of business and functions?

The CIO role is to set an aspiring vision for the organization, define the guidelines, and get out of the way to enable cross-functional teams to deliver value and growth. But how quickly you reach the point and from where you can start implementing changes and creating value can make a big difference.

That’s why the first three months (90 days) are considered very crucial for a CIO in an organization. The decisions CIOs take during this period produce lasting effects not only on the organization but also on their professional career.

Here are my recommendations to CIOs who have joined a new company.

1. Complete analysis via OODA loop

Right after the joining, the company’s leadership expects that the CIO will accept all challenges of taking the organization to the next level. These expectations can be turned into reality only if you thoroughly analyze the organization via a four-step decision-making approach OODA (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) loop. To understand the organization quickly and find out the areas for improvement thorough observation, is quintessential, that’s why it’s the first stage of OODA loop.

It will help you to prepare an action plan based on the information collected through observation and interactions with all the colleagues and stake holders. Moreover, the OODA loop will help you to do an accurate SWOT analysis of the IT organization, identify areas of intervention and prepare the roadmap with clearly defined priorities. You can then start implementing this roadmap at a decent pace with situational course correction, but there should be no room for jittery and impulsive decisions. One should systematically work according to the OODA loop, i.e., first observe the organization, its culture and people, then give orientation to your plan, next is deciding about changes, and finally, act according to the plan.

A passion for system revamp should be accompanied by patience – overnight changes never ensure fruitful results. Hence, every decision should be made after proper observation of the organization’s culture, value system, and ultimate goals.

So, I would recommend that one should start with simple and highly feasible plans. Instead of taking on tough and challenging tasks, in the first three months, you must work upon low-hanging fruits, i.e., projects that can be achieved with little effort and low budgets. This will result in winning the trust of peers and top management.

In short, the OODA loop and SWOT analysis will bring forth a clear picture, which will be quite helpful in creating effective plans and strategies. The more you analyze the company, the better the transformation plan you can unfold before the management.

2. 360-degree feedback
A change or transformation is considered profitable for the organization when employees embrace it positively or when they prefer the change over the existing system or practices. Consensus is the key to success, thereby opinions and suggestions of the board, CEOs, colleagues, and business partners are of vital significance. Many times, they can point out various details that you might have missed while contemplating a change. You must understand that these individuals have spent a long time in the organization and their feedback can be of high value to you.

The CIO should also take feedback on IT services through a formal CSAT survey so as to know what is working well and what is not. This will help CIO to immediately address the areas of concern and win confidence of the colleagues.

The introduction of new technology or system in the organization incurs a cost and no employer encourages extravagance. So, to get maximum return on investment (ROI) from tech initiatives, it is necessary to know whether the people are happily adaptable to the technology introduced in the workplace or they are reluctant to the change.

My suggestion would be that within the first month of rolling out new tech initiative, the CIO should interact with all the stakeholders to take their feedback, views, and opinions about this initiative. The feedback will help CIO in developing and deploying desired solutions.

3. Establish KPIs
As the saying goes, “What gets measured gets managed”. KPIs (key performance indicators) are imperative to ascertain that teams are working in harmony with proper coordination and communication to meet the organization’s goals.

Establishing KPIs early on will enable you to see whether the changes have an impact. Additionally, reviewing existing KPIs allows you to quickly grasp what topics the organization is focusing on. Asking each team about their relevant KPIs provide insight into whether the teams are looking into business-relevant KPIs, how strong the tech KPIs are, and whether the right cross-functional team KPIs are in place to understand impediments and bottlenecks.

Good examples of tech KPIs are service uptime, mean time to recovery, lead time for change, and change failure rate. Revenue growth, customer engagement, and conversion rate are some other useful examples of KPIs.

To sum-up
Hence, the first 90 days of a newly appointed CIO in an organization foretells her/his future work of scope. This means these 90 days will decide how influential s/he is going to be in terms of strategy formulation and decision-making and how these things will affect the CIO’s professional growth.

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