We spend a lot of time talking about how to be a great IT leader; however, the one thing that we’ve skipped over (until now) has been how to “manage upward”. This convoluted phrase was invented because it got to be too tiresome to keep saying “what can I do to make sure that my boss is kept happy”. In the world of IT, this breaks down into two parts: what a CIO needs to do to keep the CEO happy and what everyone else in IT needs to do to keep the CIO happy.
It turns out that both tasks are basically similar. Let’s start by talking about how one goes about keeping a CIO happy. The first step, of course, is to find out what makes your CIO happy. Might I suggest a survey? Good news – the folks over at the Society for Information Management have done this for you. Over 350 CIOs participated and so they appear to have gotten a pretty good set of responses.
And The Winner Is: “IT and Business Alignment” occupies the #1 position on CIO’s list of priorities. What’s interesting is that the CIOs reported that this is an area of continuing frustration for them. The senior leaders in the rest of the business have all become users of lots of IT appliances such as laptops, BlackBerrys, etc. Since they can use these IT tools, they now think that they know all that they need to know about IT. This means that the CIOs need to work to educate their peers in the company so that they can understand how best to leverage what IT can offer.
Who Is #2?: Perhaps not all that surprising, CIOs ranked “Building business skills in IT” as their #2 priority for their IT departments. This probably takes on two different angles: having IT staff start using more business vocabulary and including business thinking while doing IT planning as well as improving the contacts between IT and the rest of the business.
What Else Is On The List?: What caught my attention about the priority list is that CIO’s ranked attracting new IT talent (#4) as being more important than retaining existing IT talent (#8). It appears as though in a tightening marketplace for IT staff, CIOs are getting worried about their ability to obtain IT talent with the right set of skills.
There you go – now you know what CIO’s 2008 priorities are and, by association, what their CEOs priorities are. The big question for you is now what are you going to do to make sure that his/her priorities are going to be taken care of this year?
Do you ever get a copy of what your CIO’s goals are for the year? At the end of the year does anyone sit down and review the list to see how IT ended up doing? How do you make sure that your management’s priorities are being taken care of? How do you let them know that you are handling their priorities? Leave a comment and let me know what you think.