The employees you need may already be on your team but out of sight. Looking for existing staff with transferable skills, hidden skills, technical learnability, and hidden knowledge can bring these potential employees into focus.

Transferable skills

These are comprised of knowledge, experience, and abilities that make it easier to learn new skills. Within IT, this could mean finding workers to do programing, testing, cybersecurity, operations, project management, or other similar tasks. For example, when trying to fill your cybersecurity positions, there are several places you can look, depending on the specific role you’re trying to fill:

A role to raise security awareness within the organization could be a person in HR specializing in organizational culture, or a marketing person specializing in writing marketing materials. Both these professions understand how to move a person’s thinking in a specified direction.A role to monitor incoming security threats or intrusion detection could be a person from the IT operations team currently running and monitoring standard daily and nightly batch production runs. IT operations staff have the ability to both perform ongoing monitoring tasks, and an understanding of the organization’s IT infrastructure and processes.A role to separate server trusted connectivity could be an existing enterprise architect or Linux/Windows system administrator. Both have an understanding of your internal systems and the technical expertise to properly reconfigure how your servers and other devices are technically connected.

Hidden skills

Simply put, these are existing skill sets within your team not being used in their current job roles. For example, there may be someone working in the accounting department that has a college degree in applied mathematics. This person could be an ideal internal candidate for a position in predictive analytics, big data analysis, or even machine learning related roles. Also, there may be a business analyst who worked as a salesperson earlier in their career. This person could be an ideal candidate to implement a new cloud-based CRM system, such as Salesforce.

Technical learnability

This is a person’s ability to learn a new skill based on their prior knowledge and/or raw intellectual aptitude. As an example outside of IT, research has shown that it’s easier for a person who can speak two languages to learn a new language, than a person who only speaks one language to learn a second one. In an IT context, logic would dictate that people who already know one or more programming language could more easily pick up a new one quicker than a person who has never programmed. From an intellectual aptitude perspective, many people, due to personal circumstances, didn’t have the opportunity to study computer-related subjects, yet have high aptitude for logic, puzzles, problem solving, and other related topics, so if given the chance, they could be great technical professionals.

Hidden knowledge

Like hidden skills, hidden knowledge isn’t hidden because people want to keep it a secret. It’s because it doesn’t come up in conversation; it’s not relevant to their current job role. Hidden knowledge could come from prior work experience, personal hobbies, formalized education, professional certifications related to their future professional goals, even life experiences. For instance, if you need an additional project manager or a scrum master, there may be someone on your team with a PMP or Agile certification related to a previous job and would like to return to a project leadership role. Alternatively, you may have a team member who wants to move into cybersecurity, and just received a CISSP, CISA or other security-related certification.

As an IT leader, the use of these techniques to fill open IT positions has many advantages, including:

Reduced costs of filling open positions in a tough recruiting marketplace.Increased likelihood the employee will fit into your organization’s culture because he or she already works there.Increased company loyalty and reduced attrition because employees feel the organization appreciates the whole person and their full skill set, not just their currently used abilities.Enhanced hiring ability because the company will gain a reputation of employee-centric career growth.
Employee Experience, Hiring, IT Leadership, IT Skills

Companies across industries are committing to maximizing sustainability within their operations — and IT is at the heart of most of these efforts.

In its Worldwide Sustainability/ESG 2023 Predictions, analyst firm IDC sees digital and sustainability transformations converging. “Decision makers are realizing that technology is essential for reaching their ESG goals,” noted Bjoern Stengel, IDC global sustainability research lead, in the report.

As such, CIOs are taking center stage in sustainability efforts, working closely with business partners on enterprise sustainability initiatives, while tackling the carbon footprint of IT itself —all new territory with few established best practices, frameworks, or standards. And the opportunities for tech-enabled sustainability solutions are wide ranging.

“Many CIOs don’t know where to start,” says Brian Kirkland, CIO at Choice Hotels and founding board member for SustainableIT.org, a nonprofit launched to help create frameworks and standards around sustainability.

Now is no time for sideline sitting, however. If sustainability isn’t already on the IT agenda, it will be soon, says Bryan Muehlberger, CIO at Vuori Clothing. “It’s coming — and anyone not already in the game is going to be left behind.”

Leading CIOs are making strides — individually and in collaboration — by identifying key areas where technology can make a difference today and create a foundation for more sustainable operations moving forward. Following are several ways CIOs can move the needle on sustainability initiatives.

Secure executive support

There are some non-negotiables when it comes to taking on the mantle of sustainability as a CIO, says Kirkland.

“You need a leadership team that is supportive, and a board that will back them up. You need a champion and leader who has the job of driving ESG within your company. You need engineers and technology team members passionate about innovation and change,” he says. “Without any of those three, you will face an uphill battle.”

Most business leaders understand the importance of sustainability, but that may not translate to buy-in when it comes to IT’s role. To secure executive support, CIO’s must first demonstrate value and need.

“The big thing we need to do as CIOs is to show the business value [of sustainability] and give our business partners information to help them understand the levers they have as well,” says Morgan Stanley CIO Katherine Wetmur. “This should not just be a discussion about costs; sustainability should be considered as a business outcome.”

Maximize the cloud

IT has a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions. A team of researchers from Lancaster University, along with sustainability consultancy Small World Consulting, published a 2021 report indicating that IT contributes to as much as 1.2% to 3.9% of global greenhouse emissions — much higher than previously estimated and greater than the aviation industry. That has the potential to increase dramatically as organizations embrace AI, the internet of things, blockchain, and other resource-intensive emerging technologies. Thus, most CIOs see the greatest benefit focusing on their own function’s contribution to improving sustainability.

Cloud migrations have been on the rise in recent years for a host of business reasons, but CIOs serious about sustainability are pulling out all the stops. On-prem data centers have an outsized impact on carbon emissions and waste. Public cloud data centers, by contrast, are 93% more energy-efficient and produce 98% lower GHG emissions than on-premises datacenters, according to Microsoft and WSP Global. Analysis performed by 451 Research for the Amazon Web Services Institute found that moving IT workloads from on-premises data centers to the cloud could reduce energy consumption and associated carbon emissions by nearly 80%.

At Vuori, everything is in the cloud. Muehlberger is also investing in a serverless environment whereby cloud providers allocate resources on demand to further eliminate computing waste.

Choice Hotels’ Kirkland, who will close the company’s last data centers next year, insists any CIO focused on sustainability should go all-in on cloud. “There’s no way any smaller company can compete with the sustainability impact of the big cloud providers,” Kirkland says. “Let them do the job of efficiently running data centers.”

Minimize consumption

Greater cloud use addresses some of the supply side impact of IT on sustainability, but controlling demand for compute is equally important for CIOs seeking to reduce technology’s carbon footprint.

“When you are in the cloud, you can adopt technologies and approaches that minimize consumption,” Kirkland says. “This will drive down your cost and have a positive impact on sustainability at the same time.”

CIO Wetmur is taking things a step further at Morgan Stanley with a more sustainable approach to application development. How IT organizations build applications impacts their usage, power consumption, and overall impact on sustainability. Traditionally software development has focused on functional requirements, and few IT organizations have a culture in which developers consider the environmental impact of their code. Wetmur leverages her role as CIO to integrate sustainability throughout the development process.

“This will help us address the carbon footprint of our applications as part of the software development lifecycle, by improving measurability and transparency, reducing unnecessary or excess cycles, and better leveraging our hardware,” she says.

Pursue small wins as well

The opportunities for technology-enabled sustainability improvements are vast. That can be daunting for CIOs just starting to explore IT’s role in furthering sustainability goals. The key, say CIOs who have been doing this a while, is to begin with some easy wins and to not ignore these opportunities even as your ambitions grow.

“Everything doesn’t have to be big. Small decision make a difference and they add up,” says Wetmur, noting that helping a business partner make the case for moving from paper cups to reusable containers, for example, can have a significant impact.

“Think about the small baby steps you can take now to play a part,” advises Muehlberger. “That could be as simple as pledging to move a certain percentage of infrastructure to the cloud over the next six months or committing to writing new code that can be leveraged in a serverless manner.”

Harness data for ESG transparency

As a recent Deloitte Insights article points out: “Investors, regulators, customers, and supply chain partners are demanding greater transparency into climate and sustainability reporting and results. So, too, are business leaders. They are looking for data quality and accuracy to measure carbon footprint, supply chain optimization, and green revenue in real time.”

CIOs can help the business find, collect, validate, and analyze the appropriate data and help develop a sustainability reporting platform. Lesley Salmon, senior vice president and global chief information officer at global food manufacturer Kellogg, is one such CIO doing just that.

“Data management, automation, analytics is critical to reviewing our progress in ESG,” she says. “As data is a key pillar in IT, we play a significant role in influencing what we can report and how we report it. Through data governance and analytics, we can also improve the timeliness and accuracy of information reported by all functions.”

Empower business users to uncover opportunities with data

Beyond reporting, CIOs can also employ data and analytics to help the business uncover new opportunities to reduce the organization’s carbon footprint. Here, IT can become a critical partner to the business, providing data and insight to illuminate opportunities for change.

“The advice I give to everyone in IT is the most important thing to do is give people information to make better decisions,” says Morgan Stanley’s Wetmur. “The biggest thing we need to do as CIOs is help our business partners understand the levers they have available to make change.”

Look beyond organizational borders

An organization’s impact on sustainability extends beyond its four walls — and there may be opportunities to improve sustainability beyond the confines of the business.

For example, IT leaders could provide expertise and insight to help suppliers or other business partners in their sustainability efforts. Morgan Stanley’s IT department, for example, is helping nonprofits as part of its Technology Change Makers program. While not all of these organizations have an environmental sustainability focus — the IT organization helped the Child Mind Institute deploy machine learning to examine the impact of COVID on children’s mental health, for example — some do. Morgan Stanley’s IT employees built a digital platform to manage the restoration of oyster beds and to speed oyster growth in New York Harbor.

Pro bono efforts such as these can give nonprofit organizations digital tools to increase their impact and also give the company’s IT professionals additional experience using technology to increase environmental impact in a tangible way.

Learn from vendors

Technology providers are equally focused on mitigating their environmental impact and improving sustainability. Working closely with key vendors can give IT organizations great insight and data for sustainability efforts.

“A lot of our tech partners are very helpful, from hardware vendors who are focused on e-waste, to cloud computing providers,” says Wetmur. “There’s a lot of information we can get from companies in this space.”

Collaborate with peers

While the big tech players take sustainability seriously and have stated goals for carbon neutrality, there may be limits to what they can share for competitive reasons. Other IT leaders can play a key role in sharing acquired insight and coming up with new solutions.

For example, many high-profile CIOs this year signed on as founding board members for SustainbleIT.org. The nonprofit organization, led by technology executives, seeks to define sustainable transformation programs, create best practices and frameworks, set standards and certifications, and provide education and training for IT leaders focused on sustainability.

“It’s not about competition,” says Muehlberger, adding that the goal is to come up with common solutions to help all IT leaders better manage and advance their sustainability efforts.

Green IT

Surveys can be useful, but when it comes to setting IT’s priorities they’re more rearview mirror than windshield.

Which is why we at CIO Survival Guide headquarters have an alternative to suggest: List the promises you’ve made to the CEO for 2023, along with a compendium of what the various business punditries the CEO reads have told them to expect from you.

What you’ll get is a list of ways you can expect to disappoint your CEO this coming year. It will be a list something like this one. Your priorities are the steps you can take to prevent the disappointments.

Promise #1: The cloud will save money

Disappointment: It never did, and still won’t

Why it won’t: You can buy servers as cheaply as the cloud providers, and they need to add a profit margin when they charge you for using them.

What you should promise instead: Unlike on-premises infrastructure, the cloud lets IT easily add capacity in small increments when demand requires it. And — and this is the biggie — it also lets IT shed capacity when it’s no longer needed. The result? When demand is seasonal or unpredictable the cloud truly does save money. But when demand is steady, or increases in demand are predictable, on-premises infrastructure costs less.

In the cloud, fixed costs are small but incremental costs are big. The costs of on-premises systems are the opposite.

If your CEO is likely to care: Also explain that “the cloud” isn’t just a place processing happens. It’s an application architecture. But why that matters is a much longer and involved conversation for which the CEO will probably lack the patience.

Promise #2: The new ERP system will make us more effective and efficient than the supposedly obsolete one you talked the CEO into replacing

Disappointment: It won’t

Why it won’t: For 10 or more years IT deeply and extensively customized the old system, and the business processes it supported are fine-tuned to those customizations. The customizations made business operations highly efficient. But they also made the old system very hard to replace.

Every member of the executive suite agreed IT should implement the new system “plain vanilla” to save money and time. Which it will. But that means most parts of the business will have to adapt their processes to how the new system works out of the box.

Plain vanilla, that is, will make IT more effective, at the expense of making the rest of the business less effective. Not the best sales pitch; definitely not the best way to make friends and influence people.

What you should promise instead: Chocolate sprinkles on key sundaes.

IT’s business analysts can and should compare the effectiveness and efficiency of the new system’s out-of-the-box business process workflows to those now in use. Where the new system’s processes are as or more effective, the implementation team will create training programs to help everyone adapt. When the new system’s processes are less effective, the implementation team will, using either its built-in configuration tools or custom-built satellite applications, adapt it to the business processes now in place.

If your CEO is likely to care: In the long run there’s no choice but to replace the old system. It is obsolete, meaning that you won’t be able to recruit the talent IT needs to support it, and that you’re never sure you’ll be able to run it on the platforms and infrastructure you can buy. It’s pay it now or pay it later, and later always ends up taking longer and costing more.

Promise #3: We’re ‘digital’

Disappointment: Can we define our terms, in plain language please?

Why the CEO is annoyed: The board keeps asking if you’re digital yet. But the CEO can’t even tell the difference between today’s IT organization and what IT did five years ago. The entire board-level conversation is about how IT helps cut costs, and the CEO can’t even prove that.

What you should promise about “digital”: Revenue. The reason cost-cutting is the only conversation the CEO can have with the board is that the only projects the CEO and board will approve are projects that cut costs.

But “digital,” ignoring its unfortunate conversion to noun-hood, should focus everyone’s strategic attention on creating competitive advantage, increasing revenue by supporting the design of more interesting products, and improving customers’ experience working with your company.

IT can support this. But it’s the executive leadership team (ELT) that has to commit to it.

If your CEO is likely to care: Make a list of potentially useful digital technologies — those that can support revenue-oriented business capabilities. Walk the CEO — and then the whole ELT — through the list and choose no more than three for deeper investigations into how to integrate them into your company’s products and services.

Promise #4: ‘Agile’ means no more big-project failures

Disappointment: Your name will be on some miserable Agile project failures this year

What’s going to go wrong: Your company is going to make three Agile mistakes. The first, and worst, is that it won’t lose the habit of insisting on multitasking — developers will still be asked to juggle multiple competing projects, and their top priority will still be the next phone call.

The second mistake will be expecting Agile to scale up — that the same techniques that worked for small-scale projects will successfully manage large-scale strategic programs. The result: Nobody knows how to plan the big stuff, leading to arguments instead of consensus about priorities.

The third: Recognizing that Agile project managers (i.e., coaches) and team members need to learn Agile in small projects before putting them on large-program Agile teams, but not recognizing that sponsors also need to learn their Agile ropes before they sponsor large Agile programs.

What you should promise about Agile: Agile isn’t synonymous with haphazard. It has a lot of moving parts, and driving them is a change in culture — a different way of thinking about how to organize and run projects — that has to extend beyond IT to everyone in the business who has a stake in Agile-run projects.

If your CEO is likely to care: In most organizations, strategic planning results in Waterfall-style transformation roadmaps. These are the antithesis of Agile project planning and management. Which means it might make sense to figure out how to plan an Agile business strategy instead of trying to impedance-match Waterfall strategy and Agile projects.

Promise #5: M&A ‘synergy goals’

Disappointment: You won’t achieve them, and never will

What’s going to go wrong: The team that set the acquisition’s synergy goals — the efficiencies and economies of scale that justified the acquisition — will set them by “solving for the number.” Its goals will be fantasies the day the ink dries on the business case the board will see.

In particular, the acquisition’s business case will depend on integrating the acquired company into the buyer’s business operations, and integrating business operations in turn will depend on standardizing business processes so everyone can use the same suite of applications.

But it will turn out that even something as seemingly straightforward as standardizing the chart of accounts is complicated, and the rest of process standardization will be even worse. Without standardized processes, IT will have to work from two conflicting sets of specifications. As for integration, IT’s integration architecture has been a hot mess of point-to-point batch data synchronization programs for years. Post-acquisition it will be a hotter mess of quadruple the number of synchronizations.

What you should promise: As CIO you’re already the victim of having to keep promises someone else made. So keep your options open, make as few promises as possible, and especially, insist that all IT targets have to be a consequence of business process standardization.

If business process standardization isn’t going to happen, plan on everyone involved shrugging their shoulders and agreeing the best that can be done is to operate as a holding company, limiting integration to the simple stuff, like email and web conferencing tools.

And maybe IT can save a few bucks here and there by consolidating data centers.

If your CEO is likely to care: The CEO isn’t going to care. But after the dust has settled you should corral the ELT to suggest that as a lesson learned from this acquisition’s disappointments, it would be wise to create an M&A playbook so that instead of making the same mistakes again, the company will figure out a whole new set to avoid the time after that.

Business IT Alignment, CIO, IT Leadership

Having a clear vantage point within the organization, CIOs play a vital role bringing together engaged and motivated employees to work toward a common outcome, increase productivity, and achieve better business outcomes. Many CIOs know that a high-performance team is usually greater than the sum of its parts, comprised of talent with highly complementary skills, a broader set of objectives than other teams, and fine-tuned approaches to collaboration and communication. Parallels with sport are often drawn in that simply getting the greatest players together doesn’t guarantee the greatest team because each member has a different function, and each function requires different competencies. The key is understanding where the opportunities lie and how varying strengths can dovetail with each other. That’s when a high-performance team takes shape. 

Here’s a look at some of things that modern CIOs do to assemble a high-performance team to maximize potential.

Focus on the human element

Robert Brine, director, cyber and intelligence solutions, Mastercard SA

Mastercard SA

According to Robert Brine, director for cyber and intelligence solutions at Mastercard SA, many businesses focus too much on the technology and struggle with the human element. But if business leaders want to attract and retain talent, they have to think about people. If you have a Formula One team and you spend all your money on the car but your data analyst working in the background has to use an old, beat-up laptop, they’re going to struggle to deliver the insights the team needs to perform optimally.

Prioritise culture

Seugnet van den Berg, founder, Bizmod

Bizmod

When talking about people, you have to think about business culture, so approach it with the same care and dedication you would developing any other asset, says Seugnet van den Berg, founder of South African IT and management firm Bizmod. “In the new world of work, companies with an attractive culture have a strategic advantage over companies without one,” she says. Culture is not a one-off activity, she adds, it’s a journey and should be maintained and reinforced regularly over time.

Also, take a look at some of your most recent projects and do a critical evaluation of how well you fared, advises Brine. “In asking how well different members of your team were able to handle different tasks, you can develop a list of skills shortages that need to be addressed right away.” And then do the same exercise with an eye on the future, he adds.

Future fit your employees to retain them

“Keeping the right people in a very competitive job market is a challenge we share with many tech companies today,” notes David Cohn, CIO at supermarket retailer Shoprite Checkers. This situation has become exponentially more challenging with the explosion of investment in, and use of, technology since the start of the pandemic.

According to Cohn, addressing this starts with knowing your people and understanding what different individuals want from their career. “We encourage our employees to take ownership of their career paths and empower themselves,” he says. “It’s up to them to determine what training they require and then we work with them to make it available.” As part of this, Checkers’ management and leaders do their best to ensure that various structures are in place to allow for successful learning. Again, it comes back to listening to people, he says.

Enable room to grow

David Cohn, CIO, Shoprite Checkers

Shoprite Checkers

“People want to grow and change, and good business leaders are willing to give them the opportunity to do so,” adds Cohn. Here, you can get HR involved, encouraging them to bring their expertise and ideas to the table to help you come up with the right approach to training and employee development.

In addition, it’s important to remember that an empathetic leader understands that people come from different places and therefore won’t grow and develop in the same manner. Modern CIOs must approach upskilling and training with this reality in mind, advises Benjamin Marais, CIO at financial services company Liberty Group SA.

You also need to create opportunities that expose your employees to what’s happening outside the business, suggests van den Berg. This is especially true where it pertains to future technologies and skills because if teams know what’s out there, they better understand what they need to do to keep up.

Put your best foot forward

Given the rise in competition for skills in the market, you have to demonstrate your best when trying to attract top talent and retain them, stresses Cohn. Today’s candidates aren’t only looking for an employer who will help them achieve their career goals, they also want their work to align with their personal values and beliefs, adds Fred Swanepoel, CIO at Nedbank.

Fred Swanepoel, CIO, Nedbank

Nedbank

“Obviously, people are looking for a competitive package,” he says, “but we believe people are equally attracted to purposeful growth and meaningful work.” Prospective employees want to know what the organization does, so you need to talk about and promote the exciting projects being worked on so they can get a glimpse of what they’d do if they join the business. They’re also interested in what other talent is joining and the type of talent that already works for the business. “They want to know what the organization looks and feels like to decide for themselves if it’s a good fit,” he adds. “This is why diversity, equity and inclusion—a key focus area for most businesses—is so important.”

“With the CIO being promoted from the basement to the boardroom, we now have a seat at the leadership table and must transform the information we have into something the business can use to learn, grow and make better decisions from in the future,” says Swanepoel. “Today, you can’t pass yourself off as a CIO if you’re not central to how the organization operates. And as such, I think the CIO is equally responsible for an organization’s mindset, behaviour and culture because they have all the data around how the business has been doing in these areas in the past.”

Turn failure into a positive

If you want to build a high-performance team, you have to not only embrace failure but encourage it. This mindset is essential so you can use each setback as a learning opportunity. “You have to be okay with making mistakes, with failures and with pushing each other harder so you can turn stumbling blocks into successes,” says Swanepoel.

If you aren’t sure about something new, don’t be afraid to ring-fence it as an experiment and give it a try, adds van den Berg. “Employees love being part of something new when it’s framed as an experiment and when they understand that the purpose is to see how it works, to determine if it will work for us and to decide what we can learn from it,” she says.  

Embrace fusion teams

Benjamin Marais, CIO, Liberty Group SA

Liberty SA

Gone are the days when IT was a standalone department not integrated within the rest of the enterprise, outlines Marais. As a result, the role of the CIO is to foster new ways to work and build fusion teams so ideas flow. Fusion teams are multidisciplinary that blend technology and business domain expertise and share accountability for business and technology outcomes.

A typical fusion team may include roles such as product owner, scrum master, developers and domain experts. These cross-functional teams not only help the business think more broadly, but bring new ideas and solutions to the table in times of crisis. Swanepoel agrees. The new world of work is all about multidisciplinary interaction, he says. This makes it important to rethink how we organise our business—moving away from grouping people by business function and instead grouping them based on shared outcomes. This also means putting a greater emphasis on soft skills.

CIO, Employee Experience, IT Leadership

Leadership colleagues who endlessly throw cold water onto your plans, initiatives, proposals, or insights can be a drain on your energy and motivation — and your career. Such rivals can prevent you from receiving sufficient budget, successfully implementing vital business initiatives, and steering your organization in the right direction. They must be dealt with but doing so can be tricky.

When encountering roadblocks from a C-suite colleague, a CIO should always try to determine why that person views them as a rival, says Mike Bayes, co-founder of People First Companies, an organization dedicated to elevating businesses as better places to work for and buy from. Are they threatened by some of the CIO’s successes? Does their business area need to make long overdue tech-based changes, but they’re unwilling to invest the necessary time or resources? “The CIO can then explore ways of reaching out and mending the relationship with the rival,” he advises.

Coping with an adversary requires skill, patience, and a certain amount of cleverness. Here are seven ways to deal with that executive who seems intent on blocking your every move.

1.  Respond strategically

CIOs who find themselves at odds with a C-level rival need to step back and dedicate time to developing a strategic response. “In most cases, the antagonist will likely move onto other issues that are under their purview, or they’ll simply understand they’re being unreasonable,” Bayes says. In either case, the CIO should stay the course and, politely but firmly, push for the value of their projects.

Patience is crucial, Bayes notes, since it allows the CIO to “wait out” the rival while using the time to clarify their project plan and strategy. During any setback or delay caused by the opposing C-level executive, the CIO can refine their use cases and value propositions to further support their ideas.

A CIO with a well-constructed project plan that promotes business success knows full well that the rival’s objections are rooted in pettiness, jealousy, or some other emotion-based vendetta. They can combat those feelings with detailed plans that are presented to management with logic and passion.

On the bright side, negative interactions with C-suite antagonists can actually encourage a CIO to increase their business knowledge. This added expertise will help inform future innovations and digital transformation efforts, giving the CIO more context and deeper insights when they discuss upcoming plans with C-suite executives, whether they’re allies or competitors.

2. Take the high road

Instead of calling the rival out, or debating issues in front of colleagues, consider taking the high road. Meet with the critic one-on-one to discuss the exact places where you disagree with each other. “The goal isn’t to change their mind, but to build trust that you won’t stab them in the back,” explains Marina Nitze, former CTO of the US Department of Veterans Affairs and the author of Hack Your Bureaucracy. “You could still disagree and have rivalry on many issues, but this will make your working relationship significantly more functional in other areas.”

If all efforts truly fail, it helps to keep enterprise leadership apprised of your good-faith efforts to make the relationship work. “I’m not suggesting you report back on every one-on-one meeting, but you could approach your leaders for advice and use that opportunity to explain how you’ve been trying to find common ground on your own,” Nitze says.

3. Kill them with kindness

Embrace and uplift your foe, regardless of whether they embrace and uplift you, advises Paola Saibene, principal consultant at IT and business advisory and consulting firm Resultant. “Your focus should be on revamping, refreshing, reinventing, and progressing, so that you’ll be known as a leader, no matter what,” she says. “If you put your focus on getting better and better, and being inclusive along the way, the rival will have fewer and fewer opportunities to bring you down.”

Also try to view the situation from the antagonist’s perspective, no matter how unjustified it may be. “Take the opportunity to bring them into a conversation to deconstruct the issue,” Saibene recommends. “If it’s not a personal issue, it’s solvable.”

Finally, if all efforts at compromise fail, feel free to proceed with no regrets, Saibene suggests, fully realizing that you tried your best.

4. Consider mediation

As you struggle with your nemesis, it’s important to maintain your composure and not let emotions get in the way of your decision-making process, says Kimberley Tyler-Smith, a former McKinsey & Co. analyst. Currently the strategist at career tech service company Resume Worded, Tyler-Smith advises seeking impartial help. “If all efforts to work with the rival fail, it’s best to go over the situation with someone who’s not involved in the conflict — perhaps in HR or a trusted colleague — and then decide on the next step.” If an in-house negotiator isn’t available, consider using the services of a professional mediator.

A neutral mediator should be able to assist and guide the two parties toward an acceptable resolution. The mediator won’t decide the final outcome, and has no enforcement power, but can help the combatants understand and focus on the issues necessary to achieve a mutually agreeable resolution.

5. Build internal support

A strong in-house network can provide reliable and potentially persuasive support when dealing with a rival. “There are many voices who can provide influence, particularly at the C-level or in the level just below,” explains Mark A. Herschberg, an IT entrepreneur and the author of The Career Toolkit: Essential Skills for Success That No One Taught You. CIOs often think of networking in terms of finding employment, but internal networking is an often overlooked executive success tool. “The stronger your internal network, the more voices you’ll have for your position if direct negotiations fail,” he notes.

To avoid confrontation, build consensus within management that accepts your opinion and champions your vision, suggests Jack E. Gold, president and principal analyst at J. Gold Associates, a business consulting and research firm. “It’s much harder for someone to dismiss a strategy that’s accepted by several people than one promoted by a single individual,” he states. “Consensus is a very powerful tool and is a great way to avoid direct confrontation.”

6. Encourage collaboration

CIOs often find themselves in a power struggle with other members of the C-suite, particularly the COO and CFO, observes Jeroen van Gils, CEO of LiFi, which offers a wireless optical networking technology service. “While it’s important for CIOs to assert their authority, they must also be careful not to overstep their bounds,” he warns.

One way to ensure CIOs have a seat at the table is by developing strong relationships with their C-level colleagues, van Gils says. “By working together and sharing information, CIOs and their rivals can overcome their differences and find ways to use technology to improve the bottom line,” he advises. “Ultimately, by forging a partnership with their rivals, CIOs can position themselves as essential members of the C-suite and ensure that they’re able to effectively meet the needs of their organizations.”

7. Practice toleration

When all else fails, learn to live with the situation. “As someone in a management position, you have the responsibility to be on good terms with other people in the same group,” observes Isla Sibanda, a cybersecurity specialist with data privacy research service PrivacyAustralia. “Be transparent about your expectations and let the other person know how aware you are of their rival actions,” she suggests. “Also practice transparency when it comes to management practices and give your honest point of view.”

Sibanda believes that it’s important to at least attempt mitigation and to work cooperatively, if not entirely happily, with the rival. “There should be a shared sense of commitment and purpose,” she notes. “This is particularly vital on the C-suite level.”

Finally, if every approach fails, simply step back and keep working at your job. “The ideal way to make a point is to be good at what you do,” Sibanda says. ‘When people see you producing good results with your approach, their claims will automatically fall short.”

CIO, IT Leadership

When asked about technology purchase regrets, veteran tech exec Sanjay Macwan digs deep for a classic hyped technology that has yet to pan out: smart glasses.

Nearly a decade ago, as the technology was hitting the market, Macwan and his executive colleagues were “hugely interested in leveraging the technology,” he says. So they took a leap, spending on both hardware and software products in their bid to develop augmented reality experiences. But the venture didn’t pan out.

“The technology was not mature enough at the same time the business model — how to make money making augmented reality content — wasn’t mature enough. And we had to retreat,” says Macwan, currently CIO and CISO of Vonage, adding that the experience helped him refine a four-point framework he now uses when buying technology.

Before investing, Macwan, his IT team, and other stakeholders ask four questions:

Can they articulate the capabilities they want from the technology and ensure the technology can deliver them?Do they have the necessary skills to implement the technology?Can they successfully operationalize the investment?Are there metrics to gauge whether anticipated ROI is being realized?

Macwan approves a purchase only when he and his teams can answer yes to those questions with a high degree of confidence. The framework, he adds, helps ensure all the pieces needed for success are in place before inking a deal.

He acknowledges that had he implemented this approach a decade ago, he would have recognized that the investment in the smart glasses and AR technology wasn’t a good move.

CIOs seeking to avoid similar regrets going forward would benefit from a similar approach to IT purchasing, tech leaders and industry experts say.

Tech purchase regret on the rise

Research shows that many organizations still struggle to make good IT purchases. In a recent survey, Gartner found that 56% of organizations have a high degree of “purchase regret” when it comes to their largest tech-related purchase in the prior two years. Gartner categorized a purchase as “high regret” when respondents agreed that the purchased offering is failing or failed to meet expectations and that they considered offerings that were much more ambitious than what they decided on.

The research, which was based on 1,120 respondents at the manager level and higher in North America, Western Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, determined, however, that the technology itself wasn’t the issue, says Hank Barnes, a distinguished vice president analyst and a research chief focused on enterprise buying behavior at Gartner. Rather, it’s the buying process.

“It’s much more around the decision practices,” Barnes adds.

That, though, can be fixed — as Macwan shows. There are indeed steps that CIOs can take to strengthen the buying process to limit the chances of ending up with a purchase the organization regrets. Here are five such moves.

Provide more guidance to non-IT tech buyers

Gartner’s research shows that an organization’s level of regret varies based on the processes it uses to make tech-buying decisions, as well as who and how many stakeholders are involved.

For example, the research shows that 67% of people involved in technology-buying decisions are not in IT and that non-IT buyers are more likely to regret a tech purchase when CIOs aren’t the ones making the final decision, as organizations report regret only 38% of the time when the CIO is final decision-maker compared to the overall rate of 56%.

Gartner also found that non-IT buyers are more likely to scale back their plans, which also leads to higher levels of regret.

And with tech spending on average split evenly between IT and non-IT departments, such as marketing and finance, according to CIO.com’s 2022 State of the CIO survey, there is a rising risk of purchase regret at most organizations these days.

But Barnes sees an opportunity for CIOs to turn this around by offering more specific and formalized guidance on tech spend they don’t control — for example, by working with non-IT decision makers on how to scope out their planned purchase, vet vendors, review case studies, and plan for implementation.

“As buying gets distributed, CIOs and their teams have to help others recognize what they need to do to make a purchase decision,” Barnes adds. “CIOs can help [non-IT buyers] look at the integration impact, operational impact, security, and how to get those functional groups involved to help. CIOs can coach, orchestrate, enable these other groups.”

Take a strategic approach to engaging vendors

Gartner’s research also shows that sound vendor management practices can greatly impact purchase outcomes. For example, while it’s natural to take in information from vendors during the buying process, no-regret buyers take a more strategic — and selective — approach to information-gathering, Barnes says, adding that they aren’t doing deep dives with all the vendors, a move that can cause confusion, information anxiety, and the fear that they could be missing something in the deluge of details.

“Buyers today are dealing with too many choices, and it’s too many good choices,” Barnes says. “So smart buyers study; they go in-depth with vendors; then they pick a lead and go deeper.”

Macwan takes a similar approach, saying he challenges vendors to ensure they can deliver on the capabilities his company needs. “Then I’ll take the top vendors and ask their viewpoints on how to operationalize [their products] within my shop. And I’ll ask how they’d measure our success using their products. We have internal metrics, but I also want to hear from them on how best to measure. They should have a proof point to share,” he says.

If those questions sound familiar, Macwan’s approach to vendor engagement shows the advantage of being intentional about gathering the targeted information you want as part of your IT purchase assessment framework.

Buyer beware: Know what you’re getting — including hidden costs

Executives must keep in mind the dictum “caveat emptor,” or “let the buyer beware.”

More specifically, CIOs — whether purchasing technology on their own or working with colleagues — need to thoroughly understand what they’re buying: its capabilities, its integration and support requirements, its shortcomings, and so on, says Michael Spires, principal and Technology Transformation Practice lead at The Hackett Group, a consulting firm.

It sounds basic, Spires admits, but many don’t do thorough enough reviews.

“Yes, there are people who can help you and systems integrators you can hire, but if you haven’t worked with a technology before, you have blind spots. You might not realize how hard it would be to drive adoption, or change from one set of services to another, or how easy or not it is to configure, or whether there’s a standard way to do it, or if it will be too rigid to meet your needs,” he says.

Spires says organizations also often fail to perform a thorough accounting of costs related to tech purchases, so they don’t have accurate total-cost-of-ownership figures. That’s not surprising, Spires adds, given how easy it often is to be distracted by the promises a new technology investment offers.

“The benefits are sold upfront,” he says, “and the challenges are minimized or hidden. But those challenges can lead to cost surprises or those challenges for some organizations can be insurmountable, both of which leads to regrets.”

Assemble the right purchasing team

The players on your purchasing team also have a profound effect on investment outcomes, according to Gartner’s research, as buyers with no regrets were shown to have more diverse buying teams with more functional groups involved.

This finding, however, doesn’t suggest that more people in the process is the answer, Barnes says. In fact, too many can be detrimental. Rather, the key is to create a collaborative process that ensures just the right staffers with the necessary expertise are performing a more thorough assessment of possible purchases so that questions, issues, and needs are addressed in advance, he says.

Organizations that don’t assemble that expertise during the selection process often see delays as they hit requirements (such as security reviews) that they didn’t know in advance they needed to address, Barnes says. More problematic, those organizations are also more likely to realize after the buy that they missed issues that either can’t be addressed or can’t be circumvented easily, leading to a higher likelihood of buyer’s remorse, he says.

Sunil Kanchi, CIO at UST, notes that CIOs should think broadly about who may have valuable insights that could impact buying decisions when assembling their purchasing teams.

For example, Kanchi is working with his firm’s CHRO, in addition to other executives, to understand the company’s projected staffing needs to ensure new enterprise systems will work not just in the short term but can adequately scale as the workforce grows.

Be ready to pivot and move fast

When it comes to technology purchases, another regret can be not moving fast enough. Merim Becirovic, managing director of global IT and enterprise architecture at Accenture, says his clients often wonder whether they’re falling behind.

“With the level of technology maturity today, it’s a lot easier to make good decisions and not regret them. But what I do hear are questions around how to get things done faster,” he says. “We’re getting more capabilities all the time, but it’s all moving so quickly that it’s getting harder to keep up.”

A lag can mean missed opportunities, Becirovic says, which can produce a should-have-done-better reproach. “It’s ‘I wish I had known, I wish I had done,’” he adds.

Becirovic advises CIOs on how to avoid such scenarios, saying they should make technology decisions based on what will add value; shift to the public cloud to create the agility needed to keep pace with and benefit from the quickening pace of IT innovation; and update IT governance practices tailored to overseeing a cloud environment with its consumption-based fees.

“So you can fail fast through proof of concepts, so you’re not committing and finding out a year later that it’s not going to work. It’s much easier today in a cloud world to try things fast, to try things quicker; there’s no better time to do that,” he says.

His own company is doing just that. Becirovic points to ongoing tests around artificial intelligence capabilities that aren’t quite ready for prime time. “We’re trying a lot of different things and throwing them out fast or putting them on the shelf and saying we’ll come back in six or nine months when we see a little bit more capability being delivered,” he explains.

Creating the environment to take that approach, Becirovic says, helps head off both bad purchases and missed opportunities.

Budgeting, IT Leadership, IT Strategy, Vendor Management

A bank teller, a marketer, and an operations product owner at TruStone Financial Credit Union each had a knack for technology, but they didn’t think it would lead to a job in the IT department. Yet all three are now on CIO Gary Jeter’s IT team, and not because he’s desperate for bodies. Formal and informal programs at the credit union help Jeter find hidden IT gems inside the 600-person organization.

In the past year alone, six new additions to the IT team have come from other TruStone departments. IT’s “walk in their shoes” job shadowing initiative and the company’s formal leadership training program help employees find career growth inside the company, but Jeter credits the attraction to the IT department, in particular to its well-regarded culture and its career-progression track, which is harder to find in other areas of the midsize company.

Above all, these transfers must be a good culture fit with IT, Jeter says. “I want people who are running to us, not people who are running away from a situation,” he adds.

Finding IT talent inside the organization benefits both the employee and the CIO. Recent layoffs and reigned-in hiring trends at some organizations might make the IT department an appealing option for technology-inclined employees. At the same time, CIOs who are unable or reluctant to hire replacements at salaries that are significantly higher than those who left might be able to transition talent into IT without having to pay big salary bumps, which are estimated at 5-6% above existing levels for new hires, according to Janco and Associates. Plus, these employees already know the business. And of course, organizations benefit by retaining employees.

Here are five ways that companies are finding hidden IT talent inside their own organization.

Hire leaders and train skills

Jeter follows the mantra, hire leaders and train skills, “with leaders being people who have that drive to learn,” he says. In conversations with these interested employees, he’s looking for evidence of a curious mind, so he’ll ask about hobbies, for example. The teller didn’t have a college degree but explained she was on the robotics team in high school and taught herself Python coding.

“When you’re constantly going after [tech interests] outside of work, you’re probably going to come in and do a great job,” Jeter says. Today, the former teller is an IT systems analyst supporting mortgage applications.

Jeter will also evaluate the candidate’s reasoning skills by asking questions like, “How many piano tuners are there in Minneapolis?” Jeter says. “The answer doesn’t matter, it’s the logic that they use,” such as considering how many people play the piano, how many pianos could be in the city, and how many pianos must one tuner service to make a living.

Internal skills marketplaces

Internal skills marketplaces are emerging as a way to retain tech workers while also meeting demands for agile digital environments. Millennial tech workers often report feeling “trapped in the org chart” with a predefined job description that limits their work, says Jonathan Pearce, workforce strategies lead at Deloitte Consulting. The feeling is, “it would be easier to keep growing my career if I look outside the organization rather than inside. There’s no opportunity to put my skill sets out on the table.” Meanwhile, project managers need to connect work that needs to be done with the right set of skills, some that might come from some subfunction of IT. Internal skills marketplaces meet both needs by matching workers’ skill sets, not their job titles, with the work that needs to be done.

Navy Federal Credit Union discovers hidden IT talent with its talent optimization program, which began in 2016. “We knew there was tech talent in the credit union that doesn’t work in IT,” says CIO Tony Gallardy. “The question was how do we find these people?” His team used a talent assessment tool and identified 10 candidates for its pilot program. Each went through nine months of training and then integrated into IT. Today HR runs the talent optimization program and has expanded into other areas, including mission data, which is a subset of IT, and digital labs. More than 30 people have come to IT through the program, Gallardy says.

Some enterprises use AI-driven skills management platforms as a talent assessment tool to match peoples’ skills to IT. Consumer goods company Unilever, for instance, used its AI-driven internal talent marketplace to redeploy more than 8,000 employees during the pandemic. 

An internal talent marketplace can also reduce internal hiring bias and increase networking that promotes diversity. Hiring managers can focus just on skill sets and years of experience rather than education by removing that visible field, for instance. Others use the platform to build mentorship relationships that are senior-to-junior, junior-to-senior, peer-to-peer, and expert-to-novice, which breaks down taboos in relationships, connects people globally, and facilitates meaningful work and retention.

Bootcamps

Training programs like IT bootcamps have become increasingly important tools for creating new opportunities for employees — all while helping to fill key IT roles.

Insurance company Progressive saw an opportunity to fill important roles by investing in its own employees who already have a wealth of knowledge about the organization, while also knocking down some of the eligibility barriers for some tech jobs.

The Progressive IT Bootcamp pilot program launched in 2021 with eight participants from customer support, underwriting and claims departments, who graduated in November and now work as IT apps programmer associates on teams across the company.

The bootcamp team worked with HR to identify certain customer-facing roles and invited members to apply. The team emphasized that employees didn’t need a tech background or a degree in tech — all the experience and background would be provided to them through the bootcamp.

Once bootcamp candidates were identified and accepted, they were taken out of their previous roles and put into the 15-week intensive training program where they learned C#, .NET, and other skills necessary for their new role.

Employees are paid during their training and are aided by a training assistant who is also a full-time Progressive programmer that helps connect the dots of what they are learning to how it would apply in their new roles. Program participants also report directly to an IT manager.

The company is now working on another version of the program, focusing on analyst roles, and plans to include other tech roles in the future.

Career-change programs

Capital One’s dedication to career development has helped motivate employees to stay despite waves of resignations in other organizations. One of its programs, the in-house Capital One Tech College gives employees both inside and outside of IT the opportunity to develop their tech skills. It gives access to thousands of free training and certification courses in subjects such as agile, cloud, cybersecurity, data, machine learning and AI, as well as mobile and software engineering. The Tech College offers both live classes and pre-recorded courses to fit employees’ schedules and learning styles.

Through the Tech College, Capital One can develop the necessary skills in-house, while also giving employees the opportunity to grow and expand their careers and skillsets, according to Mike Eason, senior vice president and CIO of enterprise data and machine learning engineering at Capital One.

Eason himself says that he’s had about 15 different roles at Capital One over the past 20 years and notes that the formal process around career development helps employees find what they’re passionate about without having to leave the company. “We really want to invest in the whole person versus getting them pigeonholed in doing the same thing,” says Eason.

Leveraging internal sources

Nobody knows the hidden IT talents of non-IT employees better than their managers and co-workers.  At TruStone, business leaders and managers are open to recognizing employees with IT potential that could benefit both the employee’s career and the company. “We’re transparent that this would be a great person for [an IT] career progression, so maybe they should come into IT,” Jeter says.

Jeter often discovers talent through his team’s product management consults inside the organization. “With a lot of scaled agile framework, we have product owners that sit outside of IT but within the business in areas like consumer lending, member services, or mortgages. We have technologies to align with them and they orchestrate the backlog” and other supporting duties, Jeter says. “They see what IT does, and we see what they do — and some of them want to come into IT.”

IT scored a new team member recently after a product owner in operations worked with IT on a product management consult. He had been with the company for nine years and worked in training before business operations. Jeter brought him into IT and today he works with consumer lending applications. “He knows the business and now he’s learning the technology.”

Getting these transfers up to speed and fully operational takes time, Jeter says. “Some learn the technical aspects of the business at different rates than others.” Jeter’s VPs and managers must pivot from “being a doer to being a coach,” he says. “We also spend a lot of time on performance management sessions and making sure we have development plans.” But the effort is worth it, he says.

“Showing that you invest in employees attracts talent internally,” Jeter says. “You’re giving them those skill sets to launch their career.”

Hiring, IT Training 

CIO, the old wisecrack has it, stands for “career is over.” It’s a profession that’s fraught with ways to be forcibly escorted from your prestigious office and down to Human Resources to be walked through your severance package, and from there, after having signed mutual non-disparagement and non-compete agreements, along with a few other bits and pieces of paperwork, out the door to try your hand at a life of enforced leisure.

If this — living a life of leisure, supported by severance checks until they run out — is what you have in mind, here are seven popular ways to turn your employer into the most recent entry in the job-history section of your LinkedIn profile.

Or maybe, just maybe, you don’t want to experience this relaxing fate. Maybe you love your job (or hate looking for the next one) enough that you welcome new ways to stay where you are, to continue earning a living with a salary, not severance checks.

If that’s your goal, familiarize yourself with these job-termination traps so you can keep on keepin’ on.

1. Arguing about … just about anything. Don’t do it.

As CIO you’re responsible for what is, in most companies, the hardest-to-understand business function in the organization. That often means you recognize the need to invest budget and effort into arcana like IT’s integration architecture, platform and application lifecycle management, and AI-based information security, to name three items among many.

Because they’re hard for folks who aren’t steeped in the mysteries of our trade to understand, the executive leadership team (ELT) might be suspicious about these expenditures, calling them “technology for technology’s sake” or some other popular expression of skepticism.

As they are clearly on the wrong side of truth and righteousness, you might find yourself tempted to argue with them. But unlike discussions and conversations, arguments end up with one winner and one loser. Guess which one you get to be. And being perceived as argumentative doesn’t score you any points either.

One more thing: The CFO is the ELT member most likely for the CIO to argue with. Also the most potentially hazardous to a CIO’s career health.

2. Mis-defining or mis-managing the business/IT relationship

Lines-of-business leaders aren’t your customers. They’re your peers and collaborators in creating competitive advantage, or, if times are tough, in avoiding the creation of competitive disadvantages. Stress this as everyone’s shared goal in every conversation you have with your fellow executives. Because if they’re your customers they’ll think they’re always right, which means you can’t fail to disappoint them.

Then make sure everyone who deals with IT finds the experience as pleasant as possible. Because if they don’t like you, they won’t collaborate with you, and might decide it would all be better with someone else at IT’s helm.

3. Failing to keep critical projects on track

Projects are how organizations make tomorrow different from yesterday in an intentional way. IT’s name tends to be on any project that involves information technology, even for projects whose true focus is business change (all of them).

Which means that when projects fail, IT’s name — your name — will probably be on the failure. Failed strategic projects are a great way for CIOs to become ex-CIOs.

And, by the way, if you needed this article to point this out to you, you probably need more guidance on how to succeed as a CIO than you can get from one magazine article.

Just sayin’.

4. Failing to invest in fault-tolerant infrastructure

Every member of the ELT shops on Amazon.com, which means every member of the ELT is frequently exposed to a company whose systems never, so far as they can tell, ever go down. So they know six-sigma levels of system reliability are possible.

If your systems aren’t as reliable, or at least nearly so, buh-bye!

5. Ransomware

Once upon a time, information security failures were merely expensive and embarrassing. No more. They’re now life-threatening — for real if your company is in the healthcare business; metaphorically if not because (do you really need me to explain this?) ransomware attacks can put a company out of business.

Completely securing your systems from ransomware attacks probably isn’t possible. But securing them well, and with what might be termed a “high-recoverability architecture,” is something IT can achieve. Even more important is creating a ransomware response playbook and exercising it on a regular basis.

Because if your company is attacked, your response playbook is what demonstrates that IT knows what it’s doing and that everything is under control.

If instead your response is to panic, everyone panics. After which, buh-bye!

6. Ignoring bad managers

The managers who report to you are the people who deliver the results you get the credit or blame for. This is recursive — they have supervisors who deliver these results to them; supervisors have staff.

Managers at all levels are responsible for organizing how work gets done so it gets done right; they’re responsible for creating the organizational listening mechanisms they need to make sure they know it’s getting done right, and so on.

They’re also responsible for creating the sort of work environment that encourages employees to stay, and, even better, to recommend you to their friends.

Put simply, CIOs who want to keep their jobs create organizations people want to be part of.

Just in case the point isn’t clear: We live in an era in which even well-intentioned conversations can be misunderstood as hostile and harassing speech, and “But they shouldn’t find what my manager said offensive,” isn’t going to gain you much sympathy in HR.

You might think the key letters in “microaggression” are “m i c r o.” But in most organizations, grousing that an aggrieved employee should have a thicker skin and better sense of humor is an excellent way for a CIO to get on the severance gravy train.

7. Failing to keep an eye on your protégé

Having to keep an eye out for bad managers is enough of a challenge. Good managers can be even more of a threat, because not only do they very likely want your job, even worse, they might be qualified for it.

Not only that, they might be in a good position to get it, too, as they’ll be in a perfect situation to take credit for your shared successes while keeping any of the other missteps and blame storms squarely on your desk.

Seven steps to heaven?

As CIO you have one more thing to look out for, and it just might be the most promising one: Get yourself promoted. Yes, yes, yes, in principle all members of the ELT are created equal, and a CIO isn’t likely to be the next CEO.

But COO? CIOs have lots of opportunity to prepare themselves for running a business’s operations. Even better, having a highly competent protégé stops being a fraught and becomes one more way you’re the right person for the job when it becomes available.

CIO, IT Leadership

Respect is an asset every CIO seeks. Achieving a reputation for knowledge, reliability, and honesty takes time, as well as a strong personal commitment to embracing professional standards. Yet a single false move, made in haste or by a momentary lack of judgment, can leave a hard-earned reputation in ashes.

The IT leader’s role has changed dramatically over the past several years. “Once upon a time, the CIO was the chief information officer, responsible for the company’s entire IT infrastructure,” says Christopher M. Walker, a business consultant and coach. “Now, the CIO is more likely to be known as the chief innovation officer, responsible for driving digital transformation within the organization.”

While the CIO’s role has evolved significantly over the past few years, many IT leaders continue to fall into the same traps that tarnished the position and stature of countless colleagues. “Despite the changing nature of the role, there are still some surefire ways for a CIO to ruin their professional reputation,” Walker states.

While a hard-earned reputation can be ruined in many different ways, there are a handful of common blunders that trap IT leaders with distressing regularity. Here’s a look at the seven top ways CIOs unintentionally manage to grind their professional status into the ground.

1. Inflexibility

In today’s rapidly changing world, organizations need a leader who’s both agile and comfortable with change. “If a CIO is inflexible and resistant to change, it will quickly become apparent and their professional reputation will suffer as a result,” Walker warns. Steady communication is also important. “If you can effectively communicate with both the business and the IT departments, you’ll be well on your way to building a strong reputation,” he notes.

Walker believes that CIOs should become more political in their management team interactions by gathering supporters and forming alliances. “They need to be able to navigate the complex political waters that they will inevitably encounter,” he says. “This can be a difficult and stressful task, but it’s one that CIOs need to be able to do if they want to be successful in their careers.”

2. Invisibility

Your brand speaks for you when you’re not in the room, and CIOs may ruin their professional reputations by hiding in the shadows, says Maureen Farmer, founder and CEO with Westgate Executive Branding and Career Consulting. A lack of personal branding can limit a CIO’s ability to move up the industry ladder, since they remain a secret, unknown to anyone beyond the enterprise.

CIOs are highly skilled experts who quietly lead their teams within the most complex digital and physical infrastructures in the post-industrial world, Farmer observes. Generally lacking visibility beyond their enterprise, CIOs seldom focus on personal career strategies and opportunities. “Instead, they deliver bottom-line value through cost cutting, efficiency gains, and integration of products post-merger, to name just a few of the challenges they face,” she notes.

CIOs need to step out of the shadow and into the spotlight. Speaking at industry events, connecting with colleagues, and writing articles and white papers are just a few of the ways CIOs can build their brand.

3. Failing to innovate

IT leaders should burnish their reputations by encouraging innovation in the form of new initiatives, prototypes, hackathons, and cross-departmental partnerships, says Jeff Mains, CEO of professional services firm Champion Leadership Group.

To stand out from the crowd and become a highly respected leader, a CIO needs to make critical adjustments their department’s operations. “They need to become more creative in their delegation of responsibilities so that more time can be devoted to pushing experimentation,” Mains advises. “They also need to adopt a fresh management style that’s open to the unique ideas that emerge from experiments.”

On the other hand, being overly aggressive can actually damage a CIO’s reputation. “Many veteran CIOs possess the industry experience and combat scars to support their thoughts on the best technologies and methods to execute them,” Mains says. “However, sometimes, they’re so sure of their ideas that they try to force them on everyone, from their subordinates to their executive-level colleagues, without first gaining buy-in.” Over the long run, it pays to be assertive, but not argumentative.

4. Reckless decision-making

Be mindful of the decisions you make. “One careless choice can ruin your reputation and your career,” warns Jim Durham, CIO of Solar Panels Network USA, a national solar panel installation company. “By being aware of the risks and taking responsibility for your actions, you can minimize the damage and learn from your mistakes,” he advises.

A careless decision can be anything from selecting the wrong technology to mishandling sensitive data. “Not only are these actions career-destructive, but they can also have lasting negative effects on your enterprise,” Durham notes.

CIOs are always pressured by management to make the right decision. It’s important to remember, however, that even the best strategies and intentions can sometimes lead to disastrous results. “If you’re unsure about a decision, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and consult with your team before making a final call,” Durham suggests.

Failure is never an option, particularly major failures. “It shows that you’re not capable of handling important tasks,” Durham states. It can also damage the enterprise’s reputation and, by extension, your own. In the worst-case scenario, it may lead to your termination.

Unfortunately, even the most cautious CIOs can make mistakes. “If you do find yourself in the midst of a public relations nightmare, the best thing you can do is own up to your mistake and take responsibility for it,” Durham advises. “This will show that you’re willing to learn from your mistakes and to make changes to ensure it never happens again.”

5. Possessing subpar social skills

A leading way CIOs ruin their professional reputation is by ignoring the human factor. “CIOs have to be able to communicate with both technical and non-technical people, and they must always remember that they’re dealing with people,” says Anthony Vaccaro, vice president of sales at Timewatch, a professional services software provider.

CIOs often get frustrated because their team isn’t meeting their expectations. “All of a sudden, they start treating them like machines, or worse, like children who don’t understand what’s going on,” Vaccaro says. “This is a surefire way to lose the trust of your team and make them feel like you aren’t listening to them.”

Whenever something goes wrong, it’s up to the IT leader to figure out what happened and how to avoid repeating the mistake. Shifting blame down the ladder is a cop-out. Word will spread over time, reaching all levels of the organization, and your reputation will take a beating.

6. Neglecting to share credit

Both management and staff prefer to work with individuals who recognize their achievements. Failing to share credit for a job well done isn’t going to help a leader’s reputation, internally or externally.

Promoting department achievements is a fast, easy, and subtle way to elevate your visibility as a reliable and innovative leader. Praise your team’s diligent work and everything you’ve helped them to achieve. The result is a winning outcome for all parties.

7. Failing to align IT with business goals

When IT and the enterprise begin heading in different directions, disaster is inevitable. The result is typically chaos, bad feelings, and a CIO with a reputation for being uncontrollable and unreliable.

Pursuing IT opportunities that don’t fully align with business objectives can prove fatal to a CIO, says Cole South, co-founder of Synchronize, an e-commerce solutions provider. “Getting aligned with business goals and achieving them takes time,” he notes. It’s always worth the effort.

IT Leadership

Digitalization is a double-edged sword for banks, especially when it comes to security. A massive shift to cloud and API-based ways of working has made the sector become more agile and innovative, but it has also opened the floodgates for identity theft. As interactions and transactions become more interconnected, even the simplest processes like opening a new account or making a balance transfer become riddled with security concerns.

As financial services become more digital in nature, it’s important that banks think differently when using data analytics, security tools, and education to improve identity authentication and customer data privacy. Avaya’s research report reveals three critical ways to do so.

1. Make the Most of the Powerful Tool in Your Customers’ Hands

Almost every customer owns a smartphone, and they use that device to call into the contact center when they need to resolve an issue or complicated matter. Have you thought about what can be done with this device to enhance identity authentication? Older security methods like Knowledge-based Authentication (KBA) only prove what a person knows. By leveraging the sensors in a customer’s connected device, banks can go one step further to prove who someone is — and that makes all the difference.

These sensors, which include location services, cameras, and QR code scanning, make a customer’s smart device a valuable source of a vast amount of information and inputs that help banks create a trusted identity template for customers. Once this identity template is established, all transactions are tied directly to a customer’s verified identity. This allows simple but risky transactions like requesting a new debit card, ordering checks, or updating an address to be done simply, quickly, and with far lower risk to the bank and its customers.

2. Shield Sensitive Data from Agents Using Zero Knowledge Proof

When a customer calls into the contact center, all of that person’s information is made visible to the agent who needs to verify them: their address, their driver’s license number, their social security number, etc. What’s stopping an agent from using their cellphone to take a picture of a customer’s personally identifiable information? It’s a scary thought, especially with so many customer service jobs now offsite out of supervisors’ views. Customer service workers don’t need so much visibility into this data.

Zero Knowledge Proof is an advanced cryptographic technique that makes it possible for organizations to verify sensitive or personally identifiable information without revealing that data to workers. The agent doesn’t need to see the data to verify its accuracy or authenticity and will therefore have no knowledge of it — hence, “zero knowledge proof.” All employees will see are the results that matter to them (whether a payment went through, whether a document was signed, that a customer’s SSN checks out) with a green checkmark verifying its approval from whichever third-party company verified it.

3. Outbound Notifications for Fraud Protection

In a sea of scam callers, most customers immediately send unknown numbers to voicemail. This is a major challenge for banks trying to reach customers to perform a number of legitimate tasks and build relationships. By securely sending notifications across the channel of a customer’s choice (SMS, in-app message if the company offers a mobile app), banks can reach customers faster and with high veracity authentication. In this way, customers will receive a notification via text or in-app message before an incoming call asking them to “tap” and log in. They will be instantly authenticated and, if desired, can schedule the call for a convenient time.

These notifications can also be used to simplify routine interactions like checking an account balance or bill pay. For example, a customer can click on the link in a text message their bank sends them reminding them that a payment is due for their credit card. Notifications can be sent for non-payment interactions as well, such as post contact surveys and new customer eForms.  All of this can be done with full PCI compliance. In fact, banks can take their contact center out of the scope of compliance altogether.

Learn more from Avaya’s research about what banks should consider to digitally evolve. View the full report, Five Recent Trends Shaping the Banking Industry.

IT Leadership