The CIO job can be very different depending on the maturity of the organization. For example, the priorities of an organization having frequent production issues is far different than those of an organization that has stable systems.
In this series of posts, I will describe a model that will help CIOs determine where their organizations are in terms of maturity, and I will describe techniques that can be used to move to higher levels. These posts are an expansion of an article I wrote entitled "Is Your IT Shop a Scrambler or a Leader?"
Technology groups can be categorized as being in one of four stages — "Scramblers," "Producers," "Innovators" and "Leaders" — with each step enhancing the value of the organization to their customers. Scramblers have a great deal of difficulty getting the basics right and, true to their name, they spend much of their time reacting to events. Producers get the basics right but have not yet evolved further. Innovators are not spending as much time on the basics so they can divert this energy to find ways of using technology for competitive advantage. Leaders provide technology leadership to other technology groups.
The key difference between these two stages is the fact that Scramblers have a difficult time getting the basics right while Producers do a good job with them. "Getting the basics right" implies a level of competence in the areas of IT operations, application development, personnel and finance.
Before describing "the basics," it is important to note that these concepts may sound like common sense and there may be a temptation for the reader to quickly jump to "we do that" when reading each item. After all, no organization wants to consciously admit they are not doing something that appears to be common sense. But, most organizations don't execute "the basics" — at least at the level they should — so the reader is encouraged to challenge themselves with the following question: Does my organization really do these things well or do we just want to believe we are excelling in these areas? With that caution in mind, the following paragraphs define "the basics."
Operational basics relate to items that every technology organization needs to address as a first priority — ensuring the production systems are available and perform well. Specific items in this area include:
Application Development basics include the delivery of efficient and scalable technology solutions which allow the business to achieve its objectives. Competencies in this area include:
Organizations that get the basics right in the areas of IT operations and application development may be tempted to declare victory. But any success is likely to be temporary if the organization is not paying attention to its people and its finances. If an organization does not take steps to treat its people properly, the high quality employees may seek employment at more attractive companies. If an organization mismanages its finances, it runs the risk of being lower in the priorities when the company decides how to allocate capital. Achieving the Producer level requires getting the people management and financial basics right as well as the "nuts and bolts" of IT operations and application development.
People Management basics include initiatives that improve the effectiveness of the technology workforce. Included in this area are:
Financial basics relate to how well an organization manages the technology investment. More specifically:
There is one important item to note before leaving this section. The transition from Scrambler to Producer is often achieved once an organization embraces metrics. Metrics put a spotlight on the basics which allow management to quickly and objectively recognize issues, take steps to understand the root cause of the issues and then make changes. For each of the bullets in this section, there are metrics that can be used to objectively assess whether the organization is on the right track. Scrambler organizations rarely have good metrics in place while more advanced organizations aggressively use metrics to measure and improve their performance.
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