Not so long ago, during an CIO related event, I asked some of present CIOs a bit of a provoking question: “Are you successful in your job? If yes, how do you measure your success?” After a moment of silence, the answer came: “Sure I am successful, I am still keeping my job”. This KISS answer made me think about how could we measure one’s success. Due to my background I will focus on information technology leaders, but this question could be asked to any individual – manager, leader or contributor.
An CIO’s success could be measured in countless ways, but I believe the following areas count among most vital:
Functionality and stability of IT environment in one’s company
CIO’s ability to influence stakeholders outside of IT
CIO’s perception by his/her team
Functionality and stability of IT environment in one’s company sounds most easy, as both conditions could be measures and quantified – using appropriate KPIs. Unfortunately, there is no common standard for IT related KPIs, there are many different KPIs used across industries and areas. Historically given, many of used KPIs were of technical nature, perfectly readable and understandable by IT … but far less so by the business. Just to name a few: average uptime (of whatever system), Incident resolution within Service level agreement, Number of incidents / escalations. The CIO needs to choose a set of performance indicators that will both reflect the state of IT infrastructure and services AND be readable by non-IT individuals.
CIO’s ability to influence stakeholders outside of IT depends in the long run on one’s ability to deliver results and real value to one’s company. This will earn the CIO much needed respect across the management level and a firm starting point for discussions with CIO’s peers. Consistently delivering a functional and stable IT environment as well as projects on time and budget is the key for acceptance within the C-level suite. The ability to influence then depends heavily on the actual personality of the CIO, his/her experience and personal skills. Another strong point is CIO’s ability to build a bridge between IT and business – speaking language of both worlds. A distinct advantage would be for the CIO to have a seat in the board of directors, but it is not the seat that matters most, but the ability to catch the Board’s Ear.
CIO’s perception by his/her team might not be among a CIO’s priorities, but is more than vital. One cannot expect to continuously deliver results and value to the company without a strong and engaged team standing behind the CIO. Personal, even psychology skills are needed to find and maintain a balance between the needs and expectations of IT guys (what is often a mixture of geeks, introverts, nerds and sworn fans of fantasy and sci-fi genres) and stakeholder’s expectations on a neatly running IT organization. Keeping team members motivated and keeping top talents is more difficult than it sounds, different groups of IT employees require different approach. One example for many – an 2500 USD worth CISCO related training might be a great motivator for young tech oriented admins, but far less appealing for senior IT project professionals. Getting visibility in front of LOB senior managers might inspire that that senior IT project professional, but your senior information security officer would rather take a 20 miles long marathon then speak in front of (senior) public.
Are you successful in your job? Well, take your pick.