Commentary: Six Rules for CIO Survival

Last week I wrote about the evolving challenges of CIO education—and the need to figure out what a career path towards the CIO role might look like. This week I want to touch on the kinds of “survival strategies” that, at a high level, I think all technology executives must embrace and cultivate.

I’ve been developing this list over a long time, both from my own experiences as a CIO (now a decade in the past, thankfully) and as an observer of, and advisor to, many CIOs since then. In many cases, I have seen organizations who ignore these rules wind up with major technical and business problems—and the CIOs who ignore them do so at their peril.

First Rule: Minimize the number of irrevocable decisions you make. An irrevocable decision is one you can’t afford to undo easily or in a hurry, so needing to undo it will get you into a lot of trouble. Many organizations make such decisions all the time and without sufficient thought as to the consequences. Platform technology choices fall into this category, as do strategic supplier relationships and, often, organizational models, especially the relationship model with the business. Anything to do with explicit “cultural change” belongs here. And then there is outsourcing . . .

Irrevocable decisions aren’t intrinsically bad, but they do carry specific risks that should be addressed during the decision-making process and afterwards. And once made, specific attention needs to be paid to continuing risk management, if only so you have sufficient warning if things start to go wrong and a “revoke” becomes inevitable.

Next page: Rules Two and Three

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