Tag: Deputy CIO
This morning I was running 45 minutes behind my usual schedule. I tried to reassure myself that I was still in over an hour before any of my staff, except for Rob my Deputy CIO.
As I walked towards my office I saw someone chatting with Mariah at her desk in front of my office.
I walked directly to my door and stepped inside my office to divest of my coat and briefcase. I emerged an headed straight for the coffee cache in the back of Mariah’s cubicle.
Mariah was trying to schedule a meeting with the gentlemen from what I could overhear.
“Well the first available slot is tomorrow at 11am. Phil only has a half-hour available. Otherwise I can get you one hour next week. What will it be?” Mariah queried the young IT staffer.
“sheesh. Well this is extremely important and confidential. It is an information security issue that must be addressed and I need Mr. Chairs to be up to speed before anything is done.”
I decided that I had heard enough. I walked around the front of the desk and set my coffee down on the return.
I turned to address the staffer with a warm look and extended my hand.
“Hi there, I am Phil chairs. I don’t think we have met?”
“No sir, we haven’t. I am Tom Lispon. I work in information security here. Good to meet you.”
We shook hands and I picked my precious cup of liquid genius up from the desk.
“Tom, why don’t you come in to my office for a minute and tell me what is so important?”
“But Phil, you have almost no prep time before your meeting with our CEO at 9.” Mariah insisted.
“I know, Mariah but something tells me I need to hear what Mr. Lispon has to say.”
We both headed in to my office and Tom shut the door behind him as I sat behind my desk.
“So what’s the deal Tom? What is important for me to know?”
“Well sir one of my friends on the network team found some suspicious undocumented hardware in our first datacenter. He tipped me thinking it was a top-secret infosec project but he was wrong. The hardware was from the company we bought in the reverse merger several years back. When my team dug in to what it was doing and why, let’s just say that we found several hacked servers.”
My stomach was not giving me a pleasant sensation at this point. My mouth was dry. I willed myself with my inner voice “Drink some coffee Phil”. I listened to myself and drank deeply from the cup.
“How long have they been compromised and who knows about this?” I asked.
“Well that’s the bad news..from the file dates and error logs it looks like these boxes have been owned for years. At this point exactly 5 people know of this the only two outside of infosec are you and my friend in the network group.”
“hmm. I assume we need to preserve evidence and a chain of custody? I mean do you have any idea who may have done this and why?”
“Right now we have nothing. It is a pretty cold trail. I would like your permission to take the servers off-line.”
“You mean you haven’t done that yet? If they are old and unaccounted for why are they even on in the first place? Of course you can turn them off.”
I was sure that I was getting a bit flushed as all the sudden I felt quite warm in the face.
“Well that’s the other thing. See the servers are still in use. The executive management team still uses the Exchange accounts on those servers. If we shut them down we take out their email.”
Oh my goodness. The boxes were compromised AND the mail accounts of my peers was as well.
“Well I guess the agenda of my meeting with our CEO just changed” I pondered out loud.
Just then the phone rang. It was Mariah. I picked it up.
“It is time for your meeting with the CEO.”
“Great, thanks Mariah”
I turned back to Tom.
” I need a full update on what you recommend we do and how we can be sure there are no other machines that have been compromised. Oh yeah, I need it in one hour. Ok?”
Tom nodded his head.
“You have whatever permission you need to take that gear down in an orderly fashion. Also announce it as an emergency maintenance procedure. DO NOT tell anyone else that this has happened ok?”
Tom nodded again
“I want you to gather everyone that knows about this here in my office this afternoon for a briefing ok?”
“Ok Mr. Chairs.”
“See you then”
To say I dreaded my next meeting was the understatement of my career. I knew this would not reflect well on our organization and may launch the rest of my shark-peers in to blood-in-the-water-mode.
I loved the early hours at the office. They were even better after I found out about my own private coffee machine and secret stash of amazing bean. It was day 3 on the job in my new role and as I gazed out over the gray and cloudy horizon of my office windows, I felt a strange rush of adrenaline. Maybe it was just the coffee, but I felt a charge of voltage in my chest today. I had entered the proverbial lion’s den yesterday and walked out with a pretty satisfying victory. Not many execs have the facts to call each other’s behavior out. I had not only caught my peers red-handed circumventing the rules, I had the data to prove that they were part of the problem that necessitated those very rules.
Still I knew that until we cleaned up the IT side of the street the cadre of spinning project-plates was in real danger of crashing to the ground all at once. It’s one thing to call foul on my business peers; it’s another altogether to solve the problems that forced them to break the rules in the first place.
When IT gets in the way of the business as bad as this shop has, successful executives (especially the type-A variety) will circumnavigate the obstacles and go direct to the folks that deliver. I had merely put everyone on notice of one part of the problem by stopping the pressure against the outer walls of IT. Now I had to figure out why we had so much work in progress but so little being completed.
I picked up the phone and pressed the speed dial button for Rob, figuring I would leave him a voicemail to come see me when he arrived in a couple of hours.
“Good morning sunshine.” He answered.
“Ha-ha, Good Morning Rob! What are you doing here so early? I figured I would leave you a voicemail.”
“Since you started I have been here every day at 7am and plan on it until you start coming in later. I overheard you walking through the office on day one muttering to yourself about how no one is here on time and everyone is gone at 4:59. So if you are here, so am I.”
This delighted me beyond words. I do not equate long hours with high performance, actually just the opposite, but I knew I needed at least two hours a day of undisturbed planning and reflecting time and I was usually out of the office by 6:00pm anyway. I really liked this Rob guy and it felt good to have a partner that not only had my back but was at my side when I needed it.
“Great news Rob, you just made my day. Now get down here stat. We need to plan.”
“Be there in a sec Chief.” And we hung up.
Sixty seconds later Rob knocked on the open door of my office and walked in.
“What’s on your mind?” he queried as he pulled up a chair in front of my desk.
“I have been thinking about the meeting yesterday and how we had better come up with a plan to clean up our side of the street in this whole project situation. I feel like I can hold back the water from my peers for a while but I need to get our execution up to par. ”
Rob was nodding with every word
“Yeah you were fun to watch in the board room yesterday, but if you don’t feed the sharks some meat they will turn on you out of pure hunger. By the way you did realize when I gave you the list of 100 active projects from my discovery interviews they were in addition to the 39 approved projects?”
“You have to be kidding!” I exclaimed.
“I wish I was, Phil. I even combed the list and found any projects that were really just tasks or sub-projects that belonged to an approved capital project. So that list is fully in addition to the approved list. Your team is working on 139 projects. ”
“Wow. This is not a small number” I reclined in my chair and let out a loud exhale.
“How do you let things get this out of control?” I wondered aloud.
“This place is amazing, I have never seen anywhere like it.” Rob chuckled.
“I wish that were true, Rob. It is depressingly all too common. Every shop I have been in has struggled with this very issue. Some worse than others, I will admit but I think this number of projects may take the cake. I mean, how does a CIO get so far removed from understanding what is actually going on inside his own shop? ”
“His door was closed a lot. His two lieutenants were essentially yo-yo’s for his peers. I mean they were the spinning end of the yo-yo and the VPs were working them. You have some issues with these two guys. I think they are underwater and have no idea what they need to be focusing on. You need to deal with this quickly. You have a clear vision of what needs to happen and in many cases they are telling your team to do things that fly in the face of your intentions.”
I knew Rob was spot on here. Not only were they often clueless but they were doing a lot of harm to both the credibility of our department and themselves. I had already been confronted on day two of my post by two of my peers who made it clear they thought I should cut both of them loose to pursue other career options.
I really believed that my VP of IT ops and VP of Engineering meant well but I also knew that they were threatened by me, by the mere nature of my position, and plans to bring sunshine to the way we were working. In every conversation I had with them, I noticed the deer in the headlights look in their eyes as I further painted my plans.
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.