Tag: CIO for Hire
You can download the PDF of the article here. This is a great overview of Visible Ops for execs. If you want to talk to your boss about adopting Visible Ops, ITIL or just some of the concepts in the book. This document is nice and portable and has pretty colors (hint: execs love color).
If you are interested in improving your IT organization’s ability to focus on and complete planned work, such as projects and proactive info sec work, feel free to contact me here to find out about the workshops, benchmarking and briefings I do to help get folks started!
I arrived at the boardroom five minutes early so I could get my thoughts together after the nearly 2 hour barrage of background information from Rob. A week prior I had also asked him to account for each IT department’s workload across projects and support related activity. While doing so, he had gathered some very interesting data. From the budget worksheets I pulled a list of approved and funded IT capital projects, of which there were nearly forty, but the list of project activity from the IT team was alarming. If I was reading this right there must be over a hundred IT projects in progress. My mind was instantly flooded with synapses. Where were these projects coming from?
I thought that having forty capital projects was overload, but over a hundred was just ridiculous. I now had proof of some serious shadow IT going on. The question wasn’t who in the boardroom was guilty, but rather, with this number, who was innocent! I started to make tick marks against projects outside of the approved list that were easily attributable to marketing, finance or operations just so I would have an idea of who the worst offenders were. I did this until the room began to fill with my peers.
We were all waiting on Paul, our CEO, when I overheard our CMO, Skip Sorrenson, complain about IT being in the way of his marketing data warehouse project. He wanted to hire new staff but I had told HR to hold off on any new IT hires until I could figure out who and what were needed. According to Rob, this project had been a money pit since day one and had sucked up millions of dollars in capital and had distracted at least a dozen team members between marketing and IT for over five years. The kicker was that it had delivered zero value to the company. I knew this was a touchy subject with all and that I would need to get my arms around this project and rescue it fast.
“Ok everyone, sorry to keep you waiting, my call with the street went a little over. I had to explain our crazy high EBITDA again for the third quarter in row. Thanks Skip.” He joked dryly to a chuckling-murmur in the room. Skip was obviously a rising star in the company and due to his marketing prowess we were enjoying unprecedented quarter over quarter profits.
I heard the conference room door close and noticed my Deputy CIO slip into a chair along the wall in the back of the boardroom. I told him that he should be here in case I needed backup and to document any deliverables I might get assigned.
“None of us has any time to waste, so let’s talk about IT projects. Everyone here knows Phil, our interim CIO, by now. Phil I know you haven’t had much time but can you give us an update on the major capital projects? I would like to know, first of all, how much of your capital allotment budget has been spent, where the completion status is for the projects, and then answer any questions anyone else might have.”
“Sounds reasonable” I replied confidently, although not sure why.
“Well it is now the third quarter and we have spent less than 25% of our capital budget. I have some serious questions about the way IT projects are run and why our completion rate is so low. I certainly understand the concerns, regarding IT project effectiveness that many of you raised during my one on one interviews with you a few weeks ago.
It seems that we have far too many IT project planes taking off and landing with little to zero tower oversight. I compiled a list of 39 approved capital projects, most of which are major, by the way. I then sent Rob McNunzio on a bit of a skunk works project to see what my team was actually working on. The results are preliminary but it looks as if the actively worked project list numbers well over 100.”
I made stern eye contact with all of my peers shooting the I-know-you-are-killing us-all look, followed by a smile.
“Truthfully I was going to come to you today and say that this list of 39 capital projects needs to be prioritized and paired down to 10 major projects and 5 mid size projects just to get things under some sort of control. But after finding out about over 100 projects being active I would say we have a fundamental problem here, and by here I mean in this room.”
I had just thrown down in my first senior leadership team meeting. I had the worst performing department in terms of credibility and satisfaction ratings, I was in my post less than a week, my department was in the way of company strategy execution, and I had just went type-a on a bunch of sharks…in the shark tank.
It’s a gorgeous orange and blue hued morning as I look out the west facing glass of my spacious corner office. I walk behind the cherry desk and return and sit in the Herman Miller chair. After fuddling with the controls I get the chair to fit me correctly.
I open up my laptop and begin to connect the power adapter and arrange the desk.
“Hello?” I am startled by a voice from the door, which I had apparently failed to close.
“Good Morning!” I replied, if not a bit too enthusiastically, I thought.
“My name is Mariah Hansen and I am your assistant. Can I get you anything?”
Mariah was certainly not hard to look at and that was a perk. Now I needed to figure out if I could confide in her. The role of interim executive is often not a popular one. When a senior leader moves on from a company it can create some serious uncertainty amongst the staff. I made sure that everyone knew that the previous CIO had asked me to take over after he left. I had met with every peer of the CIO to establish a social rapport and let them know I was here to serve. I had attended company holiday functions and been entertained by the President and also by the divisional CEOs. But I have found that IT staffs are often the hardest to win over. I have found that many feel a new CIO will fire them and bring in their own dream team. I knew that the only way to convince these folks was by painting the path we needed to get on and earning their credibility day by day.
I walked over to the door to shake Mariah’s hand.
“Great to meet you Mariah, I am Phil Chairs. I would love to get some coffee, but I haven’t been able to find it.”
She laughed musically “We have our own machine.”
I figured an IT department of nearly 800 people, in this location alone, would have its own coffee break room.
“Could you point me in the right direction? I need this stuff to get going.” I smiled.
“No, I meant you and I have our own machine! I have one of those pod machines that makes amazing coffee one cup at a time. It’s in my cubicle towards the back next to the color laser printer. The coffee pods are in the locking shelf above. You can just email me or call and I can bring you a cup anytime you want.”
“Wow, I love that idea Mariah. Consider yourself emailed then. I need two cups, and do we have any half and half?”
“Coming right up! Oh and we should talk before your Leadership Team meeting this morning. Paul, your boss wants to get an update on all IT projects and their status. Now before you panic I have already got all of that information for you. I put a folder in your basket that has the printouts. I have also had your new deputy CIO, Rob McNunzio, put the data into power point slides that are waiting in your email. Look all of that over while I get you coffee and we can chat about your scheduling this week when I bring it to you.”
“Sounds great. Thanks so much! See you in about fifteen then.”
As I walk back to my sleek cherry desk I find the bulging folder of project updates and begin to leaf through it.
As I sit down I wonder if this data is accurate. When was any of this was audited last? What is our project management process, and who was in charge? Who managed the budgets and performed the plan updates? What kind of oversight was currently in place? I needed my right hand man. I reached for the phone and buzzed Mariah.
“Hello, office of the CIO this is Mariah”, she answered.
“Hey it’s me again, could you get a hold of Rob and have him meet with me after you and I are finished? I need to get answers to some questions before the leadership team meeting.”
“It would be my pleasure. Is that all?”
“Yep, thanks Mariah.”
After going through the project Gant charts and looking at the slides Rob had created I had many more questions swimming in my head. I pulled out a yellow legal pad from my briefcase and began listing them out as they came.
1. Is there an established PMO?
2. Who are our project managers?
3. Who controls the purchasing for capital projects?
4. Who reports on status?
5. How many projects are on the docket?
6. Who prioritizes them and how?
7. Do we have a project methodology?
8. Who is in charge of resourcing and time tracking?
9. Who is in charge of the financial side (tracking capitalized labor, P&L reconciliation, etc.)?
10. Who manages the project risk issues?
11. Why are so many of the large projects at 80% completion with more time left than has elapsed?
Just then Rob knocked on my door sporting a huge grin.
“Good morning, Chief.” He joked dryly
“Morning Rob” I cracked a smile.
“I guess we should talk about this circus of projects. Mariah just called me and I was relieved. I didn’t want you going in to a bloodbath this morning. You need some background and history on the key projects or else you will look like a wounded fawn in there to those jackals. Believe me, you have a couple of guys, namely the CFO, Dave Williams, and the CMO, Skip Sorrenson, that will go type-a on you and try to assert dominance so they can horse-collar you like they did the last CIO.”
“Nothing like a friendly meeting of the leadership team” I thought aloud.
Follow the high-paced adventures of international interim CIO for hire, Phil Chairs and catch a rare glimpse inside the corner office. Become a fly-on-the-wall in the boardroom, carefully contain auditors, watch Phil masterfully lower marketing’s expectations and attempt to coach his CEO through cutting the capital project list in half while single handedly gaining funding for IT test and staging infrastructure.
This irreverent weekly blog novella from Kevin Behr, coauthor of Visible Ops and consultant to CEOs, CIOs and CTOs, will make you laugh, cry and hopefully, feel some sympathy for the IT-big-guy.
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