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3 Simple Credibility Tips for New CIOs

Dec 10, 2019 | By Wil Cleaveland

IT Leadership

Building and maintaining credibility is a top priority for newly appointed CIOs, because the credibility established in the first 100 days of a CIO’s tenure often dictates their capacity for long-term success. If sufficient credibility isn’t established within that brief window, gaining trust and support for future change-making initiatives will be far more difficult.

So, how should a new CIO go about building credibility?

We’ve compiled advice from across the industry to help provide some clarity. Let’s see what these veteran IT leaders have to say…

Build Influence from the Bottom Up

Every CIO wants to dazzle their board and CEO, because most assume that’s the fastest path to a “seat at the table.” Granted, this feels like a logical, intuitive approach, but, in practice, attempting to build influence starting at the top of an organization is rarely effective.

Instead, CIOs should focus on growing strong relationships with peers, staff, and consumers — laying a firm foundation for their reputation at higher levels in the chain of command.

Mike Taylor, CIO of Seattle’s Todd Pacific Shipyards, explains in an interview with TechTarget, “A long time ago, a boss told me you shouldn’t be in the office more than two-thirds of the time. You should be walking around talking to users.”

This mindset is a major differentiator for successful, influential CIOs, and recent research from Deloitte confirms it.

After surveying over 1,200 CIOs of high-performance companies (HPCs) — defined as companies that beat the S&P 500 by 10% or more over the past three years — Deloitte found, “CIOs of HPCs differentiated themselves by building strong relationships with CFOs and business unit leaders in particular, which helped them gain influence and credibility in their organizations.”

Set Operational Excellence as a Prerequisite to Innovation

CIOs often misjudge the importance of maximizing efficiency and achieving operational excellence before dedicating resources to new innovation initiatives.

Naturally, new CIOs want to start pursuing fresh, exciting projects as soon as possible, but the less enthralling work of streamlining current operations must come first.

Think about it like this…

Should a CIO be trusted to deliver on innovation promises when they haven’t demonstrated good stewardship of existing operations?

In the eyes of the business, the answer will always be a resounding ‘no.’

That’s why new CIOs need to get a firm grasp on what’s already happening inside their IT organization before they attempt to launch anything new.

In a recent post from The Enterprisers Project, Judith Apshago, VP and CIO of U.S. Silica, offers a perfect summary of why operational efficiency is such a critical priority for new CIOs, saying:

“While it may be tempting to woo the board with shiny objects, don’t overlook the importance of getting your IT house in order. If you have any security gaps or big risks in your ERP system and you’re not addressing those fundamentals, the board’s not going to want to talk to you about the exciting initiatives where IT can really be a game-changer.”

Ensure IT’s Contribution Is Quantified and Understood

The CIO’s credibility will always be in question without defensible mechanisms to measure and communicate IT’s efforts. Regardless of how efficient and effective an IT organization may be, if the business doesn’t have a clear line of sight into technology costs and operations, stakeholders tend to assume IT is guilty until proven innocent.

That’s why new CIOs must make a conscious effort to prove value and showcase success in terms the business understands.

For example, when Enzo Micali joined as CIO, quantifying the IT organization’s contribution was his first order of business; he explains further in an interview with TechTarget, saying:

“First thing, I needed to build credibility with my own organization. IT tends to be a silo. You want your peers to view your business as a peer, and thus IT should be run as a business. I developed my own metrics to measure performance — things like cost per Web order versus cost per phone order. I also track trends in revenue per IT employee. That way the rest of the company can see in concrete terms what we’re contributing.”

How IT Leaders are Building Credibility with ITFM

There’s a wide range of strategies IT Leaders should employ to build credibility, but all those strategies are supported by one common driver: full transparency of IT costs and operations.

If IT Leaders can guide their organizations through a successful transparency journey — transforming IT from a “black box” cost center to a transparent value center — credibility will naturally follow.

Two prime examples are Ginger Allen of GuideWell and Nick Kaliszewski of Erie Insurance.

Both Ginger and Nick leveraged sound ITFM principles to build trust and credibility through transparency, shifting the perception of IT in their businesses in a matter of months. You can learn more about their work here and here.

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