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

This issue of perception management is critical to your personal success and your company’s success. Remember that any organization can use technology for two key things: to lower costs and/or to create new products, services, and markets. Typically, the CFO drives many decisions and focuses more on using technology to lower costs. While that’s often a good move, it’s simply not enough. Your company has to be equally focused on using technology to create new products, services, and markets. The only person who can drive this aspect of technology use is the CIO. The CFO, CEO, or anyone else is not going to know what’s technically possible or feasible.

Plug into your future

Equally important to managing perceptions is managing change. In today’s marketplace, change is coming at us fast and it’s only getting faster. That means organizations will be facing more problems than ever before.

One thing we know for sure is that most problems or changes come from the outside-in; external factors impact the organization. This causes people to react, crisis manage, and continually put out fires. This is doubly true for the IT department. Not only do we have breaches and security issues, but we also have new technologies and upgrades, new software and hardware, new smart phones and smart pads, new video conferencing options, and new government regulations and compliance issues … just to name a few. These changes force many CIOs and IT personnel to focus on putting out fires and managing crisis. There’s little time for anything else let alone innovating.

But to be a strategic asset to your company, you can’t simply be a crisis manager you also have to become an opportunity manager. That means you devote time to creating change for yourself and for your organization from the inside-out. Changes that come from the inside-out are far more controllable, while changes that come from the outside-in are often out of your control. As such, crisis managers live in an uncontrollable world, while opportunity managers have a handle on their future.

So what’s the solution? The key to becoming an opportunity manager is to have the discipline to unplug from the present at least once per week and, instead, plug into the future. It’s about taking an hour to not think about the economy, the stock market, the balance sheet, the IT projects, and all the things that are part of your day to day world. Rather, it’s a time to plug into the future, because that’s where you’re going to spend the rest of your life. It’s where you’re going to make all your money from this moment forward and it’s also where you can lose everything in an instant. Since you’ll be living in the future, doesn’t it make sense to give the future some thought every now and then?

Giving yourself one hour a week to notice opportunities and be strategic is the only way to actually drive change. And let’s face it if you’re not driving change then someone else is, which means the change will be coming from the outside and forcing you to focus on fire fighting. Therefore, the only way to gain control of your future and avoid the increasing number of problems is to ensure that some of the changes come from the inside-out; that both you and the organization make a change before the marketplace dictates it. An hour per week for strategic contemplation will enable you to do so. Here a few ways to ensure you will use your one hour effectively:

Mark the hour in your calendar – In order to make sure you take the time to plan, you need to put the time in your calendar. Make an appointment with yourself just as you would for any other important business meeting. If you don’t put it in your calendar, you’ll never take time to plan. You’ll be so busy putting out fires that you’ll never get to it. And if you think you don’t have time to do this because you’re too busy, then you’re likely in a habitual crisis management mode.

Think about it: In the last five years, were all of the top executives and IT team at GM busy? Were the executives at Chrysler and Merrill Lynch busy? Was Wall Street busy? Yes, they were all busy, but it didn’t help them. Being busy isn’t the answer. Rather, being busy can get you into trouble fast. The recent recession was caused because people were too busy being crisis managers and not dealing with what was coming at them. The only way to get time back is to spend the time to stop tomorrow’s problems from happening.