I’ve always thought that physicians had it right all along. The first rule of being a doctor?  “Do no harm.”  That is to say, when facing a medical situation with a patient, the first order of business is to not make the situation any worse. Unfortunately, many Chief Information Officers work in a different direction, almost as if their first rule is, “Just do something.”

Do no harm is a great strategy for the CIO

The Hippocratic Oath can apply to IT.
Image courtesy of Buzzpop.

The concept of the Chief Information Officer is still so new that it means different things to different people and serves different purposes for different organizations. The CIO for an electronic security provider is likely to have a substantially different set of responsibilities than the CIO of an international cosmetics manufacturer. As time passes the CIO role will mature in a way that more clearly indicates what should be managed on a daily basis. For the time being, being a “Chief Information Officer” is hardly as well-defined as being the Chief Operations Officer (COO) or Chief Executive Officer (CEO). But while different organizations call for CIOs to manage different responsibilities and processes, the strategy behind reaching your goals is fairly similar for us all.

CIOs can have lots of action items.

Potential responsibilities of a CIO.
Image courtesy of Technomag.

Regardless of the organization type or market sector, every CIO shoulders the same core responsibility, whether it is explicitly defined or not: to organize, implement, and manage technological resources in a way that helps, not harms, the organization.   

At its most basic, this is the role of a Chief Information Officer. Maybe your job description has a clearly defined list of things like “responsible for monitoring all IT assets”…or…”responsible for IT budget allocation on a revolving 36 month basis”…or “in charge of network security administration between multi-location infrastructure.” Whatever it is that’s been detailed for your specific CIO role, you can bet that it leads back to the core responsibility listed above.

As a result, to serve the obligations of being a CIO, it is vital that each decision you make and each process you implement pass the litmus test above: is this decision one that will leverage or utilize technology in a way that helps your organization, not harms it?

If this seems obvious to you, then I would offer that you haven’t been paying much attention to the CIO decision making going on around you. Technology resources are wasted in companies large and small on a regular basis. You don’t have to look very far to find enterprise sales organizations that are so burdened with CRM and sales tools that they spend most of their time recording information and very little of the their time actually selling. Similarly, large-scale server deployments happen regularly as budgeted dollars are spent, even though the CIO failed to call for a proper network assessment ahead of time to make sure the new systems would integrate properly. The examples are near endless. Decisions are made that lead to wasted money, wasted time, and cumbersome, complicated processes. These decisions have an adverse affect on the organization when the reverse was intended.

I’m certainly not second guessing every CIO decision ever made; these men and women are doubtlessly trying to think about what is best for their organizations. I am, however, suggesting that the determination of what is “best” doesn’t have to be so complicated. Instead of basing decisions off of arbitrary metrics, noise coming from within the organization, or salesperson bravado, base your decisions on something much simpler:  Is this going to help leverage technology in a way that helps our company achieve its goals? Or am I adding unnecessary complication and frustration to our processes all in the name of making it look like I’m doing something?

The most successful CIOs are not the ones that look for new systems and processes at every available turn. They aren’t the ones that integrate new hardware that works faster or bigger or better.  The most successful CIOs are the ones that integrate technology in a way that complements and enhances the efforts of their organization’s employees.

Next time you are facing a decision as a CIO, break the problems and challenges involved down to simple pieces and evaluate them in a simple way. Test your conclusions and decisions against that same simple premise: am I helping or harming our organization? If you do so, you will almost certainly be surprised by how much better you can leverage technology to help your organization in ways that never happened before.

If you aren’t sure about an upcoming decision or would like to discuss your IT challenges with a trusted partner, click here to contact Mosaic NetworX!