Why Every CIO Needs a Trusted Lieutenant

The CIO is the king or queen of the IT castle, but no leader’s vision is all-encompassing. To best run IT, it might require a little help from friends. After all, writes Mark Samuels in an article for ZDNet, there are serious matters to contemplate – transforming the business with technology is no minor charge.

Discovering a Deputy

What Samuels asks us to consider is that (just maybe) the burden and responsibility shouldn’t fall entirely on #1. What the CIO needs is a deputy. As Yodel CIO Adam Gerrard sees it:

“As CIO, you’ll be expected to lead huge amounts of change through innovation. If that’s your focus, you’ll need people who can manage the infrastructure. So appoint someone, for example, who really knows what they’re doing in terms of cloud and integration.”

It’s commonly agreed in the IT community that the CIO is under pressure to perform the two separate (and often conflicting) roles of technology operations manager and business innovator. Tons of speculation has gone into the debate about whether a CIO position is even relevant, or if perhaps this role could be divided amongst other departments like marketing. If those propositions all sound scary, then finding a right-hand man or woman to buoy your leadership position should not be so intimidating.

The Risk of Promoting

However, says former Axin consultant Ian Cox, you’ll still have to carefully articulate your need for a deputy to those who would grant you the privilege of having one. For instance, if your business is not mature enough to understand that IT needs more information officers, it might question the need for, say, a COO. Worse yet, it might grant you a COO and then decide that it is the COO (and not you) who deserves to be running IT.

Then there’s the risk that your new #2 won’t be as reliable as you’d like. If you’re going to turn over all of operations to someone else so you can focus on innovation, that person had better be darn good at infrastructure and operations.

Searching in Service

Perhaps you’ll find someone from support to fill the role, someone with a foothold in customer service and in stakeholder management. This person would tie together the various line managers in charge of different stacks (say goodbye to holding operational meetings with five different business units). One exception to your powers of delegation should be the 3 – 5 projects that simply cannot fail. Those should be personally handled by the CIO.

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