CIO-to-CIO Advice: You’re a New CIO, Now What.

The goal of the CIO has not changed – deliver value, drive business results, be an inspirational leader of people, and ensure technology innovation aligned to the broader business strategic direction is maintained. The tools however have changed. A decreasing role of traditional ERP, emergence of massive digital disruption, coupled with an ever demanding mobile customer base with an insatiable demand for immediate information gratification, within a social and collaborative workplace.

Challenges persist unabated for the CIO:

  • Security and Compliance incorporating, applications, infrastructure and data persist due to evolving regulatory complications, and an increasing internal and external threat environment. This massive increase in data volume is necessitating a rethink in the document retention, deletion and management areas
  • Governance – really managing demand and capacity to ensure aligned delivery of the most value adding technology solutions in resource and budget constrained times
  • New technology emergence is driving business process challenges within the business organizations that the CIO is either expected to be driving directly or aligning to
  • Everything as a service and all that that means
  • IoT, the what, how and where are the most effective uses of these technologies to ensure maximum penetration and benefit
  • An evolving talent market, with different styles, characteristics, work habits and perspectives on what the work environment should deliver and provide
  • Continued M&A activity requiring nimbleness and flexibility of technology architecture to accommodate a changing landscape of business requirements and demands

All of these are daunting for experienced CIO’s. In a role where a honeymoon period lasts probably as long as it takes for you to walk from the parking garage into the office, new CIO’s have to quickly assimilate into their environment and are expected to deliver almost from day one. Learn or know the business already, opine about everything that has a power button, the empathy and EQ of a psychiatrist, business savvy of Warren Buffett, and the insight into what needs to happen and change so that you can brief your Executive peers during your first meeting.

Not surprising then that the failure rate for new CIOs consistently ranges between 40% to 50%. New executives in this demanding space can however learn from the past mistakes of other IT leaders to improve their chances of success.

In order for any new leader, and especially a CIO, to quickly establish credibility which leads to trust they must think about focusing on some core elements during their first few months in the role.

How to be wildly successful:

  • Firstly, listen, listen, and listen some more. Preconceived notions or early assumptions of what is, has been, and should be, need to be based on fact, not assumption, prior experience, or single thread conversations.
  • Understand risk and threats especially within the technology function but also more broadly across the enterprise and IT’s role in it.
  • Assess your team. Remember, you have been hired to lead a core, strategic function for the enterprise. Leadership is about respect and trust. Your team will be a reflection on you, your organization, and your success. Make sure you have the best you can get around you. Leadership is not a popularity contest so if you need to make changes do so quickly, empathetically, aligned with HR, and ensure visible support to those leaving is provided. It is never personal.
  • Understand what the function is doing well, can be improved upon, but more critically what role should the IT function be playing within the broader enterprise. If this fact does not align with your understanding of the role, or why you were hired, then raise the flag quickly, professionally and ensure that the clarity is what you need to be confident in the support of your peers and the organization as a whole.
  • Assimilate the information, ask questions. If you don’t ask, people will assume that you know and base their impression, assertions on that. Do not be afraid to ask for clarification, or what something means. Acronym hell does exist! Ask someone to build you a list of all the company’s acronyms and take it with you. It will make being engaged in conversations easier when you understand the language of the company.
  • Look for quick and easy things to fix, and keep doing it. There will be a lot! Never underestimate the importance of this! It shows that you understand, can get things done quickly and aren’t going to mess around with the trivial.
  • Finally accept that your role is a business leader first and foremost and a technology leader second. Act like one!

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.


Our team is a blend of high-quality talent from all levels who can tackle your most complex issues with a fresh approach. With a globally connected network of 4,000 employees, Wavestone is designed to help you get results. All our consultants thrive on complex challenges, enjoy blazing new trails, and are committed to your organization’s success.

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