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Future state CIO (part 2)

September 8, 2010

In the last post, I gave a quick overview of Hugh Scott’s presentation from the recent Oklahoma IT Symposium on the future state CIO framework. A good bit of that framework is based on the pioneering research on CIO capabilities done by Egon Zehnder International. And while you can find lots of information about it on their site, I wanted to present a quick overview of their comparative capabilities infographics, because I think they’re great communication devices that also have some important implications for how IT gets funding and support for the work it does.

Note: Stephen Kelner wrote the article, Future-State CIO model forges strategic IT leaders, where I found the three infographics I discuss here.

Each of these infographics plots thousands of CIOs along nine dimensions:

  1. Results Orientation — being focused on improvement of business results.
  2. Market Knowledge — understanding the market in which a business operates, including the competition, the suppliers, the customer base and the regulatory environment.
  3. External Customer Focus — serving and building value-added relationships with customers or clients.
  4. Commercial Orientation — identifying and moving towards business opportunities, seizing chances to increase profit and revenue.
  5. Strategic Orientation — the ability to think long-term, integratively, and beyond one’s own area along three key dimensions: business awareness, critical analysis and integration of information, and the ability to develop an action-oriented plan.
  6. People & Organizational Development — developing the long-term capabilities of others and the organization as a whole, and finding satisfaction in influencing or even transforming someone’s life or career.
  7. Collaboration and Influence — working effectively with and influencing those outside of your functional area for positive impact on business performance.
  8. Change Leadership — transforming and aligning an organization through its people to drive for improvement in a new and challenging direction.
  9. Team Leadership focusing, aligning, and building effective groups in one’s immediate organization, includes formal management roles as well as virtual project teams or cross-functional teams, whether there is a formal leader or not.

The first infographic compares average CIOs to outstanding CIOs.

One of the first things I noticed about this infographic was that the footprints of the average and outstanding CIOs are essentially the same shape, i.e., the outstanding CIO and the average CIO have the same proportional strengths and weaknesses, but outstanding CIOs simply do everything at a higher level than their average counterparts. Two key exceptions are Strategic Orientation and Change Leadership…not surprising given what we would expect to set apart these two kinds of CIOs.

The second infographic compares these same average CIOs to good CEOs.

As opposed to the last infographic, what I find telling here are the differences: average CIOs lag good CEOs in Change Leadership, Market Knowledge, and Strategic Orientation. I also found it interesting that average CIOs scored identically to their good CEO counterparts on Collaboration and Influence–I wouldn’t have picked that as the category they would share the same score on. It does suggest, however, that Collaboration and Influence are necessary but not sufficient to success at the C-level, i.e., without these other competencies, they aren’t enough to get you beyond being average.

The last infographic compares outstanding CIOs to outstanding CEOs.

To me, this is the most interesting of the three. Notice how similar the footprints of these outstanding CIOs and CEOs are. In seven of the nine capabilities, they score the same as (or nearly the same as) each other. The two differentiators are as telling, however: Market Knowledge and External Customer Focus. Kelner attributes this to the tendency of CEOs to come up through the sales and marketing function, which would naturally give them a leg up when it comes to understanding markets and customers.

So enough on the model itself–Kelner’s article does a much better job presenting the nuts and bolts of this research than I can here. But I think there are some key takeaways for working with or within IT organizations to get enterprise programs like ECM funded.

First, the likelihood of your program getting funding and support will depend in large part on what your CIO’s footprint across these nine capabilities is: the stronger she is across this map, the more effective she is likely to be in getting the organization to pay for your program.

Second, you need to understand the areas where she may be weak and view them as areas where the team can help support her with its pitch. Is she light on Strategic Orientation? Make sure you and the team take the time to bolster the strategic elements of the ask, e.g., tight alignment with (or at least awareness of) the larger organizational strategy, a clear presentation of and coordination between your near-term, mid-term, and long-term goals, etc. Or is Collaboration and Influence her Achilles heel? Then spend time using the informal networks of team members to socialize the program and get visibility among the leadership of the organization. And so on.

Finally, if the team can ball park this footprint for the executive committee that will ultimately make the decision on your program, it will be able to more effectively tailor the pitch based on their group dynamic idiosyncrasies. And while most folks who have been at the organization long enough will intuitively understand these dynamics, taking the time to formalize them in this infographic (or something like it), will be well worth the effort.

As always, would love to hear from folks out there: Have you seen/used this framework before? Thoughts about its strengths and weaknesses? Know of any alternative models that would make a good comparison?

Jump in and let’s get the conversation started…

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