10 common mistakes CIOs should avoid

With the rapid advancement of technology in today’s enterprise environments, the role of the CIO may find itself struggling for relevancy. 30 years ago, it was a new sexy role and a necessary one. Technology finally had a seat at the executive table and the responsibility of managing efficient IT processes was allocated to the chief information officer. Today the enterprise environment is being affected by big data, connectivity and even automation opportunities that integrate not only the goals of IT but also business strategy. This is forcing business leaders to assess how they manage and use new and emerging technologies, for a strategic and competitive edge.


Technology as we know it is no longer the remit of the IT departments encompasses all areas of modern business even the human resources Department which is beginning to transform into a purely data driven operation.

Among the various C- level roles in a company, the CIO certainly faces difficulty. After all it is hard to get the right technology project on time, there is greater competition for relevancy at the c-level table, and being masters of managing IT can often mean that CIOs take their eye off of long-term strategic thinking and planning. A good CIO will know it is time to start preparing for future survival in today’s digital world now.

Mary Shacklett writing in a tech Republic article, suggests that while the role of the CIO is a difficult one to execute, there are 10 mistakes CIOs should be on the lookout for. It is also important to note that key takeaways such as avoiding micro-managing; segregating yourself in the office; and being a control freak can apply to any leader in any industry:

1. Succoming to tech’s “siren call”

It is important that CIOs distances themselves at a general and strategic level. It is important to be a director of technology and a problem solver. There is no need to engage in a detailed level with tech.

2. Micromanaging

If you find yourself returning to the IT office and micromanaging your managers, take a step back. Your job is to mentor, support and monitor

3. Avoiding company politics

Politics can either destroy projects or make them succeed. You have to be able to create the necessary political environment within the company so IT projects can succeed.

4. Underestimating the importance of end user experiences

CIOs tend to underestimate the significance of user interface to the application and the end user experience (EUE) which can be poorly designed. They can avoid embarrassing EUE failures by employing IT staff who are skilled with working with users and the “human factors” elements of application design.

5. Remain segregated in the office

Never assume that what you see in a project management report tells you is 100 percent accurate. The best way to assure that work stays on course in IT is to get out on the floor, building your rapport with both staff and managers. You can learn a lot about a project’s status by observing body language as well as by talking with peers.

6. Being a control freak

Many CIOs want to seize control in technology projects, especially if they have experience in similar projects (and they often do). The better path is to demonstrate a little patience and forbearance. Allow others to participate and to contribute their ideas.

7. Avoiding the “dirty work”

There are always occasions when projects (and people) go wrong. Sometimes, it becomes necessary to pull the plug on a project, or to reschedule it. Worse yet, you might have to fire someone. Often, it is rightfully the project manager’s responsibility to do this—but if the situation is unusually sensitive, it could also warrant the CIO stepping in.

8. Display fierce brand loyalty

Most CIOs have long careers. Over time, it is easy to forge fierce “brand loyalties” and to maintain relationships with tried and proven vendors you have known through the years. CIOs should be encouraged to do this, however, CIOs must be careful not to become biased against new solutions (or providers) that could also bring value to IT.

9. De-emphasizing QA

Most CIOs have come from the application development side of the house, there is an inherent impatience with disciplines like quality assurance (QA), which are charged with system and application testing. Consequently, project timelines tend to emphasize application development times, but shorten the time frames needed to do a thorough QA. Resist the tendency to structure projects like this. Give both the time and your ongoing support to your QA staff. You will be richly rewarded with applications and systems that work right the first time.

10. Delay revising IT reward structures

More is expected today with getting the end user experience right, on delivering an IT service culture, and on being customer-centric. For IT staff, money and advancement opportunities count. If an excellent QA person, or a trainer, or a human factors analyst doesn’t have career advancement or salary opportunities within their disciplines, they will either leave or opt to move into traditional “high reward” areas like application development or database. CIOs should avoid the temptation to stick with status quo reward and promotion structures in IT, because the status quo has changed.

I would also add agility to the list. Michael Hugos offers clear directions for how CIOs can open the exit door from the techie trap and become business heroes. He suggests important to try many things, emulate success and abandoned failure. Since business operations and the IT department and now completely integrated, only those companies whose IT departments can try many things and quickly scale what works will be successful.