Forrester Research recently polled CIOs of mid-size and large corporations about their biggest challenges in 2001. Here were the responses:
I hear many of the same issues being raised by our clients, so these numbers don’t surprise me. But it strikes me how much the CIO’s job (I’m describing the person with primary responsibility for technology, even if the title is different) has moved from its technology focus to one of plain old good management. It is interesting to note that of the challenges cited by respondents, only one (infrastructure) was primarily about technology. OK, maybe you could argue that selecting new systems is, too. But if you think about it, a system selection process is as much about good business needs definition, a thorough and objective methodology, creating the right value proposition, managing politics, and managing expectations as it is about technology.
In any case, the message is very clear to me. CIOs are dealing more and more with the issues of strategy, process and payoff that are so intertwined with technology at the bank. It stands to reason that their success over the next few years is going to depend as much on their planning, communications and management skills as it is on their technical skills.
So this is my question: What sort of training and development path should a CEO lay out for the new CIO, or the existing one who is increasingly dealing with these new issues? Clearly, ongoing technical training is mandatory, and it is fairly plentiful. What’s not as readily available is training on the other issues.
GonzoBanker’s mission is to take that which is muddy and make it clear. We’re here to help. So here are my suggestions for training that should be made part of the new CIO curriculum.
Yeah, I mean it. If you look at where CIOs spend their time, it’s with other bank managers, selling their vision, standards, projects, process, and solutions. They need to listen to needs, communicate benefits, overcome objections, and get buy-in, usually with several visits over time. Sound familiar? That’s because it’s the same thing you’re teaching your customer contact people. This ain’t no different, guys. If you think the CIO job isn’t about selling, you’re kidding yourselves.
There are several great sources of sales training, from bank-specific programs to ones that mix industries (I suggest the latter).
One of the biggest concerns voiced by CEOs is that they’re “not big-picture and strategic.” Agreed. Many technology plans need to focus more on issues such as aligning systems with strategy and identifying how the bank will get payoff from investments. So how about taking the person who has to pen the plan and give him/her some help on understanding how to make it strategic?
Several of the bank trade groups have excellent training in this area.
As my partner Carl Faulkner preaches, getting the right pricing structure, terms, performance standards, and liability limitations when buying a system can literally translate to millions of dollars in benefit over time. And your CIO will be right in the thick of ensuring those benefits are realized – not dealing with legal issues, which are what attorneys are for, but rather with the business issues that must be articulated and resolved in a way that is favorable to the bank.
My guess is that several law firms in your area could at least point you in the right direction to find such training. (If not – are any trade groups reading this?)
Many of you have faced the question of where to develop project management skills in the bank. In larger banks, Project Management may be its own group. For those of you who can’t afford that luxury, project management skills will, in my opinion, ultimately reside in systems or operations, because the people in these groups have the most ongoing involvement in projects.
Successful projects don’t come from Gantt charts. Successful project management is about identifying and eliminating roadblocks, managing resources, keeping third parties (i.e., vendors) on tight delivery schedules, fostering constant communication, and other fundamental management skills.
With all this new training, these CIOs are going to need a little Zen in their lives.
The investment in training will pay for itself in spades, and the alternative is the “he/she was a pretty good technology person but didn’t understand the business” rumination before you pay the headhunter for the new job search. It seems like a pretty easy choice to me.