Doug Smith
Doug Smith

Advice For the New CIO – Part 1 of a 4-Part Series

Leveraging IT to drive business strategies

The new CIO works in a disrupted, digital world and must leverage new, rapidly changing ways of delivering IT services to drive business goals. These services have to be focused on driving the business strategies, while optimizing delivery quality and cost. The disruption factor can be immense if “going digital” will not accelerate business growth, enhance a competitive market position, or create differentiation. By leveraging resources, relationships, and innovative technology, new CIOs can overcome the challenges of the office and form the foundation for a successful tenure.

Dual challenges

New executive leader failure rate consistently ranges from 40 to 50%. The dual challenges for new CIOs are justifying your new role and justifying the business value of IT. Running IT is a business, and IT should be run as a business. New CIO’s have to embrace this concept and understand the skills and requirements needed to be successful.

What’s covered in this multi-part series?

This series of blog posts is designed to help current and future CIOs understand their place in the business world today and learn new strategies to handle issues related to security, correcting business and IT alignment issues, governance, XaaS, and strategic initiatives. It will help new CIOs achieve success in their first 90 days and lead IT transformation to help build the foundation of a winning organization.

  • Part 1: First 90 days – We’ll give a step-by-step breakdown of what new CIOs need to know for their first 90 days and beyond.
  • Part 2: Early wins – Securing early wins is critical to building relationships and securing your role in the organization. We’ll offer some suggestions for key targets in the first days on the job.
  • Part 3: Challenges – The first months of a CIO’s tenure are often the most challenging. We’ll cover some of the most common issues and strategies for dealing with them.
  • Part 4: Five key tips for the new CIO – CIO-to-CIO advice, curated from the experience of over a dozen former CIOs

The first 90 days

The first 90 days on the job for a new CIO set the precedent for your tenure. You must gain a clear understanding of the state of the company and IT, meet and build relationships with the team, and develop strategies to leverage resources to drive business and deliver more efficient and secure IT service.
This timeline will provide you with an overview of best practices for this critical early stage.

Days 1-45

The first days on any high level executive job will inevitably be filled with countless meetings, strategic consultations, and other measures to help orient the new executive. By taking advantage of this early period, and using it to build stronger relationships with the team and craft your directive for the future of IT in the company, you can help ensure the success of your tenure.


Key Questions:

  1. What are the top security concerns in the IT organization?
  2. What are employee thoughts about company policies, such as BYOD?
  3. What are the current structures of governance in IT? Are they thought to be effective? Whose needs do they not address? What are different players’ optimal spending priorities?
  4. What has been outsourced to XaaS? What would be further outsourced?
  5. What is the state of office relationships? Who is well liked? Who is respected? Who are the underperformers?
  6. Where is IT misaligned with overarching business goals?

1. Communicate

  • Communicate early and often.
  • Start by talking with peers and IT staff to understand the landscape and begin building connections.
  • Meet and hash out early priorities with the board, CEO, COO, CFO, and other business leaders.
  • Ask questions. Talk to employees, colleagues, and business leaders to learn how the business is functioning, what needs to be done, and where the business is headed.
  • Listen. The first month should be primarily focused on learning about the company and its people.
  • Share your goals and communicate who you are.
  • Communicate priorities in a 30-day outreach plan.

2. Evaluate talent

  • Find out who is underperforming.
  • Find out who has high potential and why.
  • Create a strategy to nurture talent and replace underperforming individuals.

3. Build relationships

  • Identify immediate concerns and challenges for business partners.
  • Find quick fixes that can help form the foundation for mutually beneficial relationships.
  • Talk to business leaders to gain a better understanding of the business’s strategic direction.
  • Determine which department carries the most weight in the organization. This will help you understand the company’s culture and where to focus your efforts.
  • Identify those who will help you advance your priorities (and those who will get in your way).

4. Assess and make goals

  • Conduct a full IT assessment and use it to develop a comprehensive strategy.
  • Evaluate security in IT. What are the weak points?
  • How is the organization using cloud technology?
  • Identify areas where XaaS could provide benefits.
  • Is IT aligned with business strategies?
  • Establish clear KPIs for yourself and your team aligned with your priorities.

Days 45-90

After you are oriented and have a solid footing as CIO, it’s time to start expanding on the foundation you have laid and implement plans of a greater scope.

1. Communicate

  • Keep channels of communication open.
  • Continually reiterate your goals and strategies to business leaders and employees.
  • Look for outside perspectives to gain greater insight into the company’s state and future.

2. Assess

  • Prioritize critical or at-risk areas for assessment.
  • Rapidly engage sourcing to meet gaps.
  • Set up VMO to help manage vendors and fill out the needs of the organization.
  • Conduct high-level assessments across all areas. Which areas are assessed will depend on organization type, health, and perceived maturity level.

3. Act on talent evaluations

  • Identify talent acquisitions that need to be made and positions that need to be eliminated.
  • Get the support of employees and leaders first.
  • Take steps to begin restructuring the organization.
  • Act quickly, respectfully, and decisively while restructuring.
  • Promote the changes as a positive for the company and recognize the contributions of effective employees.
  • Continue to fix simple problems quickly and maintain your role as an effective leader.

After day 90

As you continue the work started in the first 90 days, it is critical that you keep paying attention to how the business is changing and what impact your actions are having. Don’t be afraid to pivot or readjust your plans to better fit the business needs of the organization.

1. Communicate

  • Maintain and nurture the relationships you have built.
  • Continue to ask questions and learn about new opportunities.
  • Look for problems or concerns that need to be addressed.

2. Assess

  • Keep assessing your progress toward goals and the effectiveness of your initiatives.
  • Socialize your finding and solicit support from business partners.
  • Evaluate supplier performance and identify those that are providing your organization the greatest value.
  • Evaluate how your plan fits in with your risk-mitigation strategies and its impact against the existing workload.
  • Don’t be afraid to reevaluate goals and plans.

3. Develop long-term goals

  • Develop a remediation strategy and investment plan.
  • Formulate a strategic link between internal technology and business strategy.
  • Facilitate key business drivers of success.
  • Compare all activities to predefined metrics to judge success and reevaluate as necessary.

    Whether you’re brand new to your IT leadership position or an experienced CIO, Wavestone US can help you navigate the new challenges facing IT executives today. For an initial consultation, click here.

    Doug Smith
    Managing Director

    Doug has more than 20 years of experience as an IT leader and strategist. Before joining Wavestone US, Doug built and led the Enterprise Architecture function for McKesson, a Fortune 15 healthcare company. In his role as VP of Architecture and Solution Management, he led a team to develop technology strategies and roadmaps for McKesson’s businesses worldwide. At McKesson, he also served as VP of Data Center Transformation and led a multiyear, multimillion-dollar program to modernize and transform IT infrastructure and support teams. Doug has also served as an interim CIO for several of McKesson’s smaller businesses. Before McKesson, Doug worked for Novant Health as Director of Corporate Applications; and as a consultant for IBM Global Services, where he built an intranet to streamline delivery of content to physicians and nurses.

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