7. Don't align with the business.

7. Don't align with the business. Be in the business. The CIO and IT organization should not strive to align with the business, serve the business or design a strategy for the business. Those approaches sound like the IT organization is a separate entity that is coincidentally working with a particular business entity. The truth is, the IT organization is a crucial component of the business.

The CIO is an executive like all other contributing executives, including sales, marketing and product development. By being in the business, IT has a better chance of effectively supporting the mission of the organization.

CIOs who discuss only technical matters will quickly become pigeonholed. However, when CIOs actively contribute ideas, the perception of them broadens. Additionally, if the whole IT organization thinks of itself this way, the team's job satisfaction will skyrocket.

8. Measure success through business-value metrics. The CIO must measure organizational success through a well-thought-out suite of business-value metrics. These are more than metrics that show 99.XX percent availability of all systems. Metrics should be comprehensive and cover the entire organization, including planning and strategy, architecture, delivery, operations and quality assurance. In addition, these metrics should be known throughout the organization and be used as a basis for performance objectives.

A typical one-on-one meeting between a CIO and each business leader should include a discussion of the key metrics. What's working well? Where are the danger signs? How are they managing their organizations with these metrics?

The CIO also should make sure that business-value metrics are transparent. They should be reviewed with other business leaders regularly, and key issues and trends should be discussed. Nothing contributes to the confidence of the CIO more than a review of the organization through metrics. Using business-value metrics will help inspire confidence.

9. Ensure transformation (continuous improvement). The CIO should consider implementing a culture that values the continuous improvement of the IT organization. This is crucial in helping the CIO and IT staff avoid complacency. IT teams are complex, technology is constantly evolving, and good businesses are also evolving. If IT organizations are not continually raising their game, their performance will be mediocre.

Although developing a transformation program is an effective approach, this may imply that the project may eventually come to an end. It must be made clear to the organization that continuous improvement is the true goal. Like many of the other success ingredients, transformation, or continuous improvement, must be inculcated into the culture of the IT organization.

10. Have an architecture strategy--and advance the architecture. So many IT organizations have no stated architecture strategy and no stated evolutionary plan or process to ensure that software is being built with sound architectural guidelines. The CIO must have an architectural strategy (as well as an infrastructure upgrade strategy) based on the mission of the business. It is then OK for the CIO to acknowledge that it is acceptable to evolve over time to the desired state, as opposed to trying to sell an architecture project.

The CIO must ensure that the architecture blueprint is widely known across IT and the business, adopted within IT and built into the system development life cycle. There will be a natural tension between the chief architect and individuals responsible for delivering new software, generally because there are competing interests. The architect will advocate for the purest architectural approach, while programmers will sometimes try to take shortcuts because of timeline pressures. This tension is normal and should be embraced.

Don Desiderato is a principal at Novarica and a former CIO of Prudential Annuities. This article is adapted from his recent report "Ten Essential Elements for Insurer CIOs."

This article was originally published on 06-24-2010
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