Special Report: What Should Today’s CIO Really be Managing?

Know whether you’re dealing with a cycle or a permanent change – The good news is that most changes are cyclical rather than permanent. For example, home values will always rise and fall, the stock market will always fluctuate between bull and bear, and a company’s sales will continually ebb and flow with the seasons. Those are all cyclical changes that are a bit easier to deal with — provided you know how long the cycle will last.

Sometimes, though, changes are more permanent. For example, someone gets an iPod and starts listening to music on that device rather than buying CDs. That person now has all her music with her at all times. That’s a permanent change, because she’s not going back to music on CDs. Permanent changes, even those that are seemingly small or incremental, can have devastating effects on a business.

So think about the IT changes occurring today. Is cloud computing cyclical or permanent? Are visual communications cyclical or permanent? Is people’s need to do more with their computers and equipment cyclical or permanent? Pinpoint the permanent changes that are on your radar and then …

Solve predictable problems before they happen – During your hour ask yourself, “Based on the direction I see things going, the trends I see happening, and the market cycles I’m aware of, what are the problems I’m about to have? And, equally important, what are our customers’ predictable future problems?” Then determine a strategy to solve those problems before they occur. Keep in mind that a future problem represents a future opportunity.

For example, if you’re implementing a new strategic plan, predict the problems the plan will create and solve them before they start. If you’re launching a new product, figure out the problems associated with that product and solve them before the launch. If you’re implementing a company-wide IT change, identify those who are likely to fight the change and why, and then develop solutions for their concerns beforehand.

It’s about becoming more anticipatory. If you don’t take an hour a week to look at what’s about to occur, you’re going to keep doing what you’ve always done until you inadvertently go off a cliff. Rather than be a crisis manager and only react to problems as they occur, you want to be anticipatory, identify opportunities, and capitalize on them.

Look at the future of your profession – In addition to looking at your industry and organization’s future, also look at the future of IT in general. Based on all the things you’re seeing with your organization and all the technological changes out there, how will you be doing your job in the next few years? If you can start to see the future of your career, you can chart your own course, identify problems before they occur, and solve them proactively so you end up ahead rather than behind the curve.

Unplug from the present – To be an opportunity manager and strategic asset for your organization, distraction is the enemy. To provide major new competitive advantage and to create new products, markets, and services, distraction is the enemy. Unfortunately, we have never been more distracted.

Not only is everyone in your organization distracted, but so is everyone in your competitors’ organizations. But in a way, this is actually good news, because it means there’s a huge competitive advantage in pulling out of that mess of distraction. To do so, though, takes leadership and discipline.

Realize that our distraction level has gotten worse over the years rather than better. Why? It used to be that we had several different realities. We had our home reality with our spouse and children, and we had our work reality with our co-workers. Often the spouse and kids didn’t know what we specifically did at work, and all the people in our work reality didn’t know much detail about our home reality. We also had our leisure friends, or our personal reality. And we belonged to a club or church group and had that reality. Finally, we had our vacation time reality.

As we went through life, we would go from one reality to the other. This was a good thing psychologically, because it allowed us to recharge. Then, when we went from one reality to the other, we were refreshed and mentally sharp.

Today, technology has allowed all those realities to become one reality. But before you blame technology for this merging of realities, realize it’s not technology’s fault. Technology is neither good nor evil. It’s all about how we use it. We have the choice whether to plug in or unplug. Therefore, to reduce the level of distraction in your own life, you need to understand the power of unplugging on a regular basis.