Orla Daly joined Skillsoft, a maker of learning software, as CIO in March 2022 with a mandate to drive both operational efficiency and transformation from Day 1.

To succeed on those objectives, Daly drew up a longer list of supporting tasks she needed to quickly accomplish. Her list: Understand in detail the business dealings of her new employer and its strategy. Inventory its current technology landscape. Assess the talent on her team. And then use all that information-gathering to identify what needs to change and how to change it.

“It’s really about learning where we were at, so I could formulate a plan forward,” says Daly, who has already launched new training programs to close skill gaps, particularly around the data literacy needed to support digital transformation. She has also prioritized IT projects based on their expected impact on business priorities. Both are actions that Daly believes help her build credibility and a true partnership with her executive colleagues.

“It’s all setting up IT for success in the longer term,” Daly adds.

Like most executives, the honeymoon phase for new CIOs is pretty short. Consequently, incoming CIOs like Daly have less time to make a positive impression, build alliances, and craft plans for success.

How best to do that can vary, but here, several seasoned IT leaders share essential to-dos that new CIOs should accomplish in their first year to set the stage for future success.

1. Make time to listen

CIOs have heard for years now that they need solid communication skills to succeed, but Helen Norris, CIO of Chapman University in California, believes as CIO she must listen as much as — if not more than — she talks. That’s why she embarked on a listening tour when she started her role.

“I don’t think it’s the right thing to just jump in and say [what needs to be done],” Norris says. “You have to listen to what people across the organization are saying, hear their priorities. People really welcome it, the chance to be listened to. And you have to give people the opportunity to be really frank with you, and you have to steel yourself to hear complaints, and then build a strategic plan out of what you learn.”

2. Build relationships

When Norris started at Chapman, the IT department “was very much in the background, in that it was a utility,” she says. The university’s leaders recognized that IT wasn’t adequately supporting the school’s core mission, and they gave her a mandate to better engage the academic departments.

To do that, Norris had to reach out to department heads who had considered IT only an afterthought and establish a rapport. That kind of relationship-building is critical for any CIO who wants to be seen as an executive and equal partner in the C-suite, Norris says.

“All executive roles are about people and relationships, and it’s particularly important for a CIO to think in that way because we come from technical backgrounds and some people still think it’s a technical role,” she explains.

She adds: “We’re not doing technology for technology’s sake, or we shouldn’t be. We’re doing technology to improve the student experience, or if you work in a corporation, to increase the customer experience or the staff member experience, and that’s why it’s really about the people.”

3. Build trust

Dr. George F. Claffey Jr., CIO and interim vice president of Institutional Advancement and Strategic Partnerships at Central Connecticut State University, says he, too, focuses on listening and building relationships. He sees building trust as an essential extension of that work.

“No one is going to have confidence in your agenda if you can’t be trusted,” he says.

To build trust, Claffey acknowledges others’ challenges and works to fix them. “We find the win for them,” he says, adding that he also attends meetings held by other departments and demonstrates a genuine interest in their goals so they see “I’m interested in not just IT but everything that’s happening.”

4. Rethink (and rebrand) the IT portfolio priorities

Skillsoft’s Daly says focusing on the most impactful issues and the tech initiatives supporting the most critical business needs can quickly build credibility and demonstrate the value of IT.

That focus, however, doesn’t happen by chance, and new CIOs shouldn’t assume their inherited work portfolios have the right projects prioritized. Daly didn’t and instead reviewed the IT landscape to ensure her team is focusing on the most critical issues first.

Daniel Sanchez Reina, who as a vice president at research firm Gartner works on CIO leadership, culture, and people topics, says CIOs should see this process as an opportunity to highlight the value those projects have to the business. He advises new CIOs to position and even rename projects by their value proposition to help show they’re focused on using technology to create business results.

5. Mind the skills gap

To have a successful CIO shop from the start, Jim Hall, CEO of consultancy Hallmentum, says CIOs “need to have the right people doing the right things at the right time, and they have to have the right skills.”

To ensure they have that, CIOs should assess their teams early on to identify skill gaps in individuals and across teams, and then determine what measures are needed to get in place the right people and skills doing the right thing at the right time.

6. Craft your strategy to deliver business results

Veteran IT leaders say new CIOs can’t take too long in this get-to-know-everything stage. They must quickly take that information and use it to draft a strategy that delivers on the objectives they were hired to achieve.

“After that first 100 days, create a central theme of what you’re going to do,” Claffey says. “It’s then time to start talking about what your plan is.”

After meeting with business unit leaders, holding roundtable conversations with staffers to get a sense of their capabilities, and reviewing the IT landscape, including its project portfolio, Skillsoft’s Daly says she drafted her plan to move forward and rapidly started implementing pieces of it. So far that includes training and development around data, seeing that is a necessary component for digital transformation, as well as an initiative she named North Star, aimed at delivering capabilities for key business processes.

7. Establish your expectations for managers

CIOs often inherit a management team when joining a new company, and they thus inherit their decision-making and accountability structure.

As the new department chief, “You’ll have to figure out what decisions [managers] can make on their own, what they need to run by you, and how you’ll measure them,” says Michael Spires, principal and technology transformation practice lead with The Hackett Group, a business advisory and consulting firm.

Spires says this is a particularly important year-one step for CIOs who were promoted from within, as they have to adjust to being the boss of those who were once co-workers. He adds: “Recognize that the relationship has changed, and so be explicit about your expectations for your former peers.”

8. Name a deputy

A CIO who is successful at being a strategic partner can’t also be running interference on everyday IT operational needs, Sanchez Reina says, “because if the CIO tries to solve all the day-to-day obstacles, then they won’t be able to dedicate time to strategic activities.”

To head off that potential scenario, Sanchez Reina advises new IT chiefs to nominate a deputy to take on that tactical work. CIOs at large organizations can create and staff a specific deputy position, while CIOs at smaller companies will likely have to add such responsibilities to an existing role.

“It might not be a formal role,” Sanchez Reina adds, “but the CIO always has to have that right-hand person.”

The nominated individual should be pragmatic and decisive, he says; they can’t take a month to make a decision. They should be customer-focused rather than heads-down technical workers. And they should be generous with their time, noting “It has to be a person who never says, ‘It’s not my job.’”

9. Determine the CIO’s true place in the hierarchy

Yes, the CIO is supposed to be a C-level position but it sometimes isn’t viewed as such by other executives. Even if it is, the CIO could find that his or her authority is curtailed or undermined by others on the executive team, consultant Hall says.

“The CIO should have full authority over IT, but that might not be true in some organizations. That reality could be quite different. You might be reporting to someone who used to be in that CIO role and they’re going to take ownership over it no matter what you do. Or for historical reasons you might find someone asserting authority. And even if it the CIO has full authority, others may have influence over IT,” Hall explains. “So understand your full scope of authority.”

New CIOs should suss out whether other executives could be usurping the CIO’s power and — at least for the short term — find a pathway around that situation so they can still deliver successes despite any obstacles or obstructions others put up, Hall says.

“The ultimate goal is for the CIO to bring that authority all within the CIO role,” he says, “but in the shorter term the CIO may need to be working collaboratively with those [other leaders].”

10. Identify influencers within the C-suite

New CIOs would do well to identify those executives who have the most influence on the CEO — “influential meaning the CEO listens to these people,” Sanchez Reina says.

Identifying those individuals and understanding their visions for the organization can provide insights into what the CEO thinks and values, he says — insights that can help CIOs shape their own roadmap, strategic thinking, and priority projects. CIOs can also highlight that alignment to gain buy-in from — and even get champions among — those executives.

11. Get an ally on the board

Similarly, Rick Pastore, senior director and technology research advisor at The Hackett Group, recommends that new CIOs seek out an ally among the directors by identifying and engaging a tech-focused board member. That relationship can help the CIO better understand and, thus, align to the board’s view on the organization’s strategy and its future.

12. Figure out and fix your problem spots

“Figure out where your operational challenges are, whether it’s project delivery or outages or something else. Then determine whether the person in charge of that has a rational reason for that, do they have a plan to fix it, or are they waiting for someone to tell them what to do,” Spires says, adding that “you can’t leave a problem like that festering because it reduces your credibility.”

CIO, IT Leadership

If you’ve noticed changing patterns of fraud and the way your business manages fraud threats since the start of the pandemic, you’re not alone. Our latest survey of industry trends, with MRC and Verifi, the 2022 Global Fraud and Payments Report, highlights some important shifts in the extent of fraud and the way merchants are responding to it. It also reveals what merchants really think about upcoming rule changes.

Here are the key take-outs for 2022:

Fraud is on the rise…

For the second year running, fraud KPIs are on the rise. Estimated global revenue lost to fraud is up 16% — and in North America there was a sharp jump of 38%. 

% of revenue lost to fraud 1

Cybersource

…but spending on fraud is not

Despite the uptick in fraud, the overall amount merchants have spent on tackling fraud globally has flatlined since 2020. One explanation could be that managing fraud already accounts for a large proportion of merchants’ budgets. On average one-tenth of e-commerce revenue is spent on the issue. It’s a particular drain on resources for mid-sized firms:

% of eCommerce revenue spent managing fraud, by business size 2

Cybersource

Reducing manual reviews is in merchants’ sights

Given the significant ongoing costs of fraud management, it’s little wonder the majority of merchants are looking to reduce the amount spent on time-consuming manual reviews.

While most merchants foresee retaining a manual review process, 12% are planning to eliminate it entirely. In Europe this figure is even higher, with nearly one in five merchants planning a complete phase-out.

Role of manual review in future fraud management strategy 3

Cybersource

Merchants have a diverse armory

Fraud threats are a complex and constantly shifting threat, and merchants commonly use a number of approaches to tackle them.

On average, merchants use four different tools when detecting and thwarting fraud, although merchants who are members of the Merchant Risk Council typically use double that. Larger merchants also use a wider array of approaches than SMBs.

Global top five fraud-prevention methods 4

Cybersource

Changes are no big surprise

Regulatory changes are a potential minefield for merchants, but those we surveyed are generally pretty positive about incoming rules on customer authentication.

As the graph below indicates, merchants are feeling confident about the industry-wide implementation of EMV-3DS. Meanwhile changes to the EU’s Payment Services Directive (PSD2) are expected to have a major impact on organizations doing business in/with Europe. Here too, the vast majority of merchants feel at least partially prepared. 

Merchant preparedness for EMV® 3DS and PDS2 / SCA 5

Cybersource

To find out more download the Cybersource and Merchant Risk Council’s 2022 Global Fraud and Payments Report

1 2022 Global Fraud and Payments Survey Report, MRC. Figure 4, p7
2 2022 Global Fraud and Payments Survey Report, MRC. Figure 5, p8
3 2022 Global Fraud and Payments Survey Report, MRC. Figure 6, p9
4 2022 Global Fraud and Payments Survey Report, MRC. Figure 16, p18
5 2022 Global Fraud and Payments Survey Report, MRC. Figure 8, p11
Fraud Protection and Detection Software, IT Leadership

Many think of the cloud as a destination; somewhere to get to. It is not – it’s a continuous experience and a journey of choices. Organizations normally recognize they need help navigating the different platforms, application architectures, and technology choices they’ll encounter along the way.

When looking for a partner to provide cloud professional services, there are some obvious features such as strengths and experience to consider. But it’s much more than that – it’s about finding the right provider to take the journey with you and bring your digital visions to life.

Having the right model mindset

The concept of cloud computing was generally born in 2006, when “cloud computing” described the new paradigm where people could access software, computer power, and files over the Web instead of on their desktops. Relatively old then, right? Successful concepts get reinvented all the time, and cloud is no different.

Your cloud partner needs to understand where cloud is going, not what it has been or is today. Even that suggests a one-design model, however, and it is not. Make sure your partner not only understands what new cloud experiences are but is also committed to the idea that you can consume all your IT, including hybrid/on-premises solutions, using an as-a-service delivery model.

Row your own boat

Likewise, if you want a company not to do everything for you in the cloud, but to help make sure you do it right, you should work with a partner that grasps the notion of the cloud that comes to you, not you to the cloud. It’s a mindset approach; to understand that an as-a-service model that you control delivers the same control no matter where resources live – in the cloud, on-premises, or at the edge. If you are at the early stages of your journey and haven’t set such an ambition yet, your partner might have their own preferences in mind, which may coincide with yours … or not.

Have the right motivations to adopt your cloud model

The cloud professional services market is constantly evolving. Today’s trends include putting more emphasis on innovation and less priority on using cloud as a cost takeout or scale play. While cost will always be a factor, organizations increasingly are becoming more strategic in their cloud implementations, using them to deliver better customer experiences and drive value throughout the entire operation, while maintaining compliance, latency, and performance requirements of mission-critical applications.

For example, has your potential partner invested in cloud-native professional services capabilities? Important themes evolve such as workload balancing, automated assessments, and cloud-native code re-engineering through AI-based code analysis and extraction. What are your prospective partner’s capabilities and their experience so they can bring that to the fore of your own journey?

Leave market share or scale for the financial report

Life would be dull if it was always about the largest, right? Fortunately, as humans and organizations, we have choices. And cloud isn’t just cloud, so what type are you considering? IaaS/PaaS/SaaS? What hosting model: public/private/hosted?

Innovation, vision, mindset, technologies, methodologies, skills, capabilities, and talent all play key roles in how your chosen partner can perform with you on your journey to stand out in the marketplace. There is the notion of “do it right.” This phrase is as applicable to your chosen partner as it is to yourselves.

Ultimately, choices must be made, but there is a fit, and that fit comes from what you consider the qualifications to be, some of which are soft, and others are hard. Either way, doing it right means your partner fits your profile regardless of size, geographical ties, industry focus, or maturity level. Sometimes, this might mean orchestrating your own partner-choice ecosystem with their partners. And that’s ok.

What does the partnership look like in your mind?

What is unique or appealing about each of your shortlist partners? What is it beyond scale and status that differentiates one from another? Some partners may have unique approaches. Where do your cloud ambitions sit in your digital transformation strategy?

Perhaps they can help you identify and act on key “moments” in your journey, fully addressing the challenges of each aspect and mitigating the drawbacks that commonly set transformations on the road to failure. How do you imagine your chosen partner can help you bridge the gap from vision to execution?

Can that same partner not just get you to your cloud vision, but orchestrate it and provide you with oars to “row your own boat?” If cloud is a continuous experience, can the partner that helps you get there also help you continue your journey of choices?

Reach out for 3rd party opinion

Of course, any prospective partner is going to toot their own horn, and it is up to you as to how loud you hear it. It’s always a good idea to get independent validation. Here is where access to customers who have journeyed with your prospective partner can provide great insights. Be wary of a partner that doesn’t provide access to customers or let them talk independently to you.

Secondly, there are the analyst firms. One example is the ¹IDC MarketScape report. It’s a report that provides IDC’s insights into professional services vendors, highlighting strengths and weaknesses. It is also useful to the vendor as it allows them to take stock and work to strengthen what are seen as weaknesses.

For example, at HPE, IDC see the strengths as employee strategy, financial funding model, delivery capability, customer service, and marketing functions. This is very insightful. HPE’s employee strategy is focused on capitalizing on acquisition knowledge and systematically enabling a larger global population of team members to deliver. The funding model includes the investments required to support this. The delivery capability includes systematic training and certification in all cloud platform technologies, including hyperscalers. And our support and service functions are aligned to the new methodologies and multi-stack requirements of a deep customer base. As for marketing, an avenue is provided to professional services experts. This CIO.com page is one example, and another is the well-known thought leadership journal called The Doppler.

Learn more about evolving cloud landscapes with the HPE GreenLake edge-to-cloud platform, a new kind of cloud experience.

¹IDC MarketScape: Worldwide Cloud Professional Services 2022 Assessment (doc #US48061322, April 2022)

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About Ian Jagger

Jagger is a content creator and narrator focused on digital transformation, linking technology capabilities expertise with business goals. He holds an MBA in marketing and is a Chartered Marketer. Today, he focuses on digital transformation narrative globally for HPE’s Advisory and Transformation Practice. His experience spans strategic development and planning for Start-ups through to content creation, thought leadership, AR/PR, campaign program building, and implementation for Enterprise. Successful solution launches include HPE Digital Next Advisory, HPE Right Mix Advisor, and HPE Micro Datacenter.

IT Leadership, Managed Cloud Services