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10 Things That are a Must for Every CIO

By Ron Horn, CIO, Trillium Health Resources


Ron Horn, CIO, Trillium Health Resources

For over thirty years I have been in the Information Technology discipline and have had the opportunity to travel the world doing something I thoroughly enjoy. Throughout my travels and my positions within a number of industries I have purposely made mental notes regarding the evolution of technology and the ability to manage the discipline. I have worked tirelessly to make my way to the coveted CIO role and now that I am here, I wanted to take the time to share some of my most valuable pieces of information, in short form, for those aspiring to wallow in the fascinating world of technology.

1. Get a Seat at the Executive Table:

Be adamant about letting the business know technology is a catalyst to be used by the organization to help it reach its strategic objectives and be a participating member

2. Know the Business of Your Company:

Take the time to study and understand the operations of the business and the workflows of the functional areas. It is not imperative you understand the intricate details of how everything works but know the “hot spots” and pain points.

3. Develop a Current State, Future State Roadmap:

Understand the current architecture/infrastructure of your company. Have someone assist you to draw out each part of your network down to the endpoints then develop a growth strategy around the strategic direction of the company with technology to support those initiatives. If there are better or more efficient ways to accomplish something…SHARE IT!

4. Application Standardization:

Standardize on office applications and support tools wherever possible. If you can standardize on an operational application that is modular and offers a full suite to fulfill the needs of the business, please take the time to do the evaluation. If for any reason your business is forced to choose complimentary applications be sure to develop an integration strategy which creates better, more seamless workflows.

5. Security/Staff/Data Center Assessments:

Have a security/risk assessment done immediately! If you do not know a vendor, ask your colleagues or peers in the industry for recommendations of companies that do a complete check of your network to include penetration testing.

► Staff Assessment:

Take the time to do a 1:1 with your staff. If your department is large, trim the list down to your direct reports or even down one more level. The idea behind this is twofold. One, these interviews allow you to understand the perception of the IT department holistically and secondly, these interviews allow you to assess the persons attitude and purpose within the organization. Build a strong team and they will make your life much easier!

► Data Center Assessment:

As you have assessed the security and staff you must also assess your data center from the bottom up. Know the age of the equipment and current maintenance agreements. Once the assessment is complete, build your strategy to support the capacity needed for the organization to include redundancy and disaster recovery. Most importantly, have all of this DOCUMENTED!

6. Contract Review:

Review all of your IT-related contracts to check for expiration dates, automatic renewals and relevance to the strategy of the organization. If any of these are found to be out of line look to renegotiate or terminate the agreements and find another vendor more suitable to the needs of the company.

7. Relationship Building:

Establish yourself immediately as a relationship builder. If you fail to do this the results could be devastating in a number of ways. Let executive staff and their support teams know you and your department are there to support them and you will make sure you put mechanisms in place to meet or exceed those expectations. Take the time to meet with the functional leaders of the organization to find out the pain points within their respective areas and evaluate your ability to help to resolve those issues. Additionally, involve them in the decision-making process…you’ll go further in your career if you do this.

8. Portfolio/Project Management:

Consider the possibility that anything requiring the use of a number of resources, an extended period of time and significant funding may be a project and deserves to be treated as such. Start by tracking scope, schedule and budget, in its crudest form, to make sure the organization is aware of all of the projects that may be in progress. Look to establish a framework to document the stakeholders, processes, timelines, funding and develop a charter to show the project has real meaning and deliverables in the company.

9. IT Governance:

Establish a governance panel to review every project submitted for relevance to the organizational strategy, availability of funding and resources. You will be thankful you did this later!

10. Change Leader:

Be a change leader! Help others to understand and see the benefits of the changes happening within the organization and then socialize the outcomes.

The list above is not all-inclusive and is not intended to fit everyone’s situation or organization. Each person will need to evaluate the list for their own uses and situations but this list should go a long way in helping you to be successful as a CIO within your organization. Be sure to get out and talk to others in the industry and don’t be afraid or too proud to ask questions. Join social networks of other CIO groups. Read books and technology publications written about the job of a CIO or strategies around being a CIO. Go to seminars and conventions to meet others who will surely offer insight to the discipline. Over my lifetime I have found others at these seminars and conventions that are “biting at the bit” to tell you their story. Please be sure to take the time to listen…you may learn something.

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