For years, succession planning has been a crucial part of the CIO’s job. As a leader, The CIO’s responsibility to ensure continuity. However, with changing times, does the Chief Information Officer [CIO] need to evaluate and change his succession planning strategy? What are the concerns and goals that existing CIOs face and how should they find and mentor the right people to fill their shoes? How should succession planning be altered to develop successors who may be more relevant for the organization?
Joe Topinka, CIO, SnapAV, CIO Mentor
Sanjog: Today’s topic is, Is CIO Succession Planning Still Relevant. And the guest for today’s show is Joe Topinka, who is a CIO for SnapAV, and also the author of the book business IT Partnership. Hi Joe, How are you?
Joe: Good morning and thank you very much for having me on the show.
Sanjog: Oh pleasure is all ours. The reason we thought of doing this show on this topic which is CIO Succession Planning because we see that, yes, this is nothing new. So we are involved in succession planning whenever we know we have done what we had to do there and we have other priorities or we have other avenues to explore, we would look for a successor. All of that said, it has changed, the environment has changed, the customer demands have changed the CIO role has changed, how and where the CIO groom is changed. So with all of that said, how does it impact the succession planning?
So that said, Joe, the first question is, if you are to look at all that has changed and you look at how succession planning was done. Would you think it’s time for a makeover?
Joe: It’s a great question and I wouldn’t say that, generally speaking the CIO role has changed dramatically over the last say ten years or so. Especially over the last several years with cloud, social mobile, big data, the Internet of things. And I think now more than ever businesses that are progressive, see the CIO role and IT in general as powering the business. And so the reflex of approach that we’ve taken in the past, really focused more on IT as an operator, IT as a cost center. And so that’s old school perception that we’ve been dialing. And I do think that the world has changed and so succession planning I think. We need to start thinking about how to cultivate talent earlier on and in specific I think we need to work for what I call the Bilingual IT Professional, the person who understands business and strategy and then understand how to marry technology to that. So I think that’s a broad overview of my perspective around succession planning.
Sanjog: And so when you have seen the way you said that the role has changed dramatically, do you think that is in a way also telling the apprentice or are the people who are in the making CIO wannabes, the same message and perhaps they’re already morphing or tweaking their approach to how they would want to become CIO. So the job is becoming easier or they are still living in the past or they are clueless. And now you suddenly, you tell them that, “Hey, we have to fundamentally change how you work to be groomed versus now.”
Joe: think we do need to change how we’re groomed. I talk about an IT transformation trifecta I’ve written about this. And the way I described that is, when you think about IT and transformation, it comes in three flavors, the first of which is starting with the CIO are the leader of the technology group, you have to start thinking about IT as a business unit. And you have to think about how the portfolio their projects of projects that IT undertake, how do they drive strategy. And do you measure the outcome, business outcomes. So, you have to get your mind straight around that first, that you are a business leader, number one. And your skill is to take your knowledge of business and marry into the capabilities that technology affords. Secondly, the second leg of that stool is, you’ve got to get your IT organization to think the same way. Because they’re interacting with internal departments and colleagues from around the firm. And so you’ve got a sort of incorporate that thinking and integrate that thinking into your own teams. And then thirdly, this is probably the most difficult leg of the stool in my opinion is, you’ve got to get the C-suite your executive teams start thinking about IT differently. They’ve got to look at IT as a business unit and they’ve got to stop reflexively thinking of IT as a cost center. And once those things happen, then it kind of paves the way for a different way to look at succession planning.
And I think related to that, is this reality that we’re faced with so many CIOs about to retire. A lot of boomers like myself who over the next five years are planning a migration. I think the time is probably more critical now than ever before that we should start to think about it. And I think that I saw one set of numbers from an industry segment in the higher education space where the number of CIOs over 50 years of age group from around 59% to north of 65% with almost 25% of those CIOs, 61 years of age and older. So that wave is coming and organizations as they think about technology powering their business like never before really need to be proactive about finding that next leader.
Sanjog: See, the way you looked at succession is that somebody is in the role of the CIO have paid their dues or they continued to be at a given organization. And succession planning is only done when they believe that they’re going to either retire. Now that’s under one flavor. But then another one is where we see CIO’s tenure being four year or less in some cases, it’s not that they did not do their job but they went in, they cleaned up and then moved on. And in that case, you got a very short window by within which this individual will come in. So does the CIO– is it a responsibility of the CIO to take this thing on that I’m coming in for four years and I’m going to walk away? Or the organization should huddle in the troops and say, “This person is coming in and he has a track record that he’d be getting the job done, that’s a great news. But then we’ll be left high and dry.” How are you looking at the ecosystem off succession planning being supported as a fluid process versus somebody does it well, other person doesn’t do it well?
Joe: Great question. I’d say that, it’s probably a little bit of all of those. I think the biggest challenge that I’ve faced and I see in the marketplace is that the C-suite still has an old school perception of IT and as IT leaders, we’re beginning to make the right moves and we’re beginning to talk about business outcomes with respect to IT. But it’s not the norm. And so I think we live in a world where we’ve got a fairly heavy dose of confirmation bias, both within and IT and the CIO and with the C-suite. We look for people and we look for ideas that confirm our beliefs. And so we tend to dismiss and not remember those things that don’t match up.
And so it’s the same way with IT. But the C-suite continues to think of IT as a cost center and they don’t think of it as a strategic enabler, then that’s a big problem. I know that boards of directors have had the opportunity to kind of weigh in on this but it’s always come from a risk perspective. They are always looking at the IT organization and looking at security and risk behaviors. And what role does the CIO play and so many boards have done that. I think I saw some research recently. It might have been on Accenture white paper that talked about, only 20% of organizations actually do formal career succession planning and that’s got to change, especially with the number of CIOs that are looking at retirement here over the next five years or so.
So I think it’s a healthy perspective to say that the CIO and C-suite really have to come together. Because IT really does drive business value like never before. The assistance of engagement now are critically important to companies in this new world where social media defines how companies go to market. And if you find an IT leader that understands that how to capture that power through great user experiences or even making supply chains efficient, so that customers when they receive the products and services get them the way they’re supposed to and have the right information along the way so they can track where that solution is and are the packages and on its journey from distribution to their home. So I think it’s critically important both IT leadership and the C-suite. Really rethink how they look at succession planning.
Sanjog: So you actually identify two camps. One is that an organization where IT is still seen as a cost and the CIO as a tired warrior or it’s totally dependent on the CIO as an individual to prove the value of IT. And based on that performance, they would start looking at it at least temporarily as a pseudo cost center or not a cost center maybe more tilted towards a profit center and then the organization is going to invest in succession planning. And the other one is where there has been a change of heart. CIO is not looked at as a cost center or IT is not looked at as a cost center. And then succession planning would have a little more proactive approach.
So if you were to compare in contrast, how succession planning can be led in regardless of where they stand with their mindset. Because there is a change in the business environment, what would that look like but before you go into it, let’s take a quick break. Listeners, will be right back and dive into this question.
Sanjog: Welcome back. Whether IT seen as a cost center or a profit center. And how does the executive management treat the CIO or the potential of them getting a successor. Can you please compare and contrast Joe, on how specific strategies would be useful in your view or have been used in these both camps?
Joe: Yeah. I think in the cap where business leaders CIT more strategically. They’ve already reached this level of business and technology convergence and all likelihood. And this is an area where the C-suite already thinks together with the VIP leadership. So strategy, an IT or not, actually more honestly actually see the value of looking at IT proactively and they act together so they make sure that there’s a process in place whereby any new investment ideas that come up. There’s a way to evaluate those ideas. And then they achieve together so thinking acting and achieving together are kind of a byproduct of those proactive organizations. And in those organizations, C-suite already has a predisposition to understanding that the CIO overall is critically important. And I would bet in the organizations that I can tell the ones that I’ve been in where that’s been true, the C-suite and human resources teams have a process and place for succession planning. They’re looking at people’s potential and performance who can possibly take that role, and how many years out is that individual, where’s the CIO in their evolution. And are they moving on in some period of time. So they probably have a process in place for their funneling resources through. So it’s a lot more– I think proactive and it’s easier to make that sort of succession planning happen.
I would say also that CIOs in those companies are less fearful of actually putting a succession plan in place. So, to contrast that to the IT as a cost center scenario. A lot of CIOs who are in those roles, who are living with that day to day cost pressures and IT is a drain on profits mentality. Our fearful oftentimes of putting together a succession plan because they don’t really want to take the risk of having someone shine and potentially take their role. So, there is a fear factor there. And I think in those cases, what the CIO has to do is step back for a moment and think about the bigger picture. Think about what’s best for the company really. Because you want more people inside the organization to think bilingually. If you want to think about business and technology and how to leverage those, how do you bring those two things together to really help drive the strategy of the company.
And so it really comes down to focusing on as the CIO letting go of your fears and really helping to show the organization that IT is a value added aspect of a company that actually focuses on top and bottom line value. And I think that getting over the fear aspect of it is, is crucial. And when I think CIOs do that and they kind of let it go, I think C-suite executives begin to see that CIO a little differently, they began to think well there really is a succession plan here and there and more people in IT they can think like business people do, the better off a whole company is. I think that that’s a challenge and I think that confirmation bias I spoke about earlier and fear are really the inhibitors in that process. But the reality is it’s inevitable, CIOs are going to come and go. And more and more are retiring so I think the more that CIO is going to explain, the critical importance of lifting the whole IT organization up and actually moving it more towards a business driven entity. And I like to call my IT organizations in the companies where I work, I call them Business Technologies, instead of IT, to kind of help underscore this whole theme that I am referring to. But it is much more challenging and IT as a cost center model. Because you’ve got that– IT is a drain on profits mentality at the C-suite and the CIO’s in those organizations have not done enough to really bridge the chasm there.
Sanjog: So while this discussion is about actually improving the CIO’s succession planning process, it looks like that there is actually a camp where we have to do a sell job in the first place, of that they should even invest in CIO succession planning and as an organization and not be dependent on the person who anyways is not able to prove their mettle as someone who is leading the charge and helping IT been not seen as a cost center.
Joe: That’s right. That is the fundamental issue. And I think in those organizations in particular and I think that those CIOs that don’t figure it out will probably be looking for a new job ultimately anyway. This is a big tsunami wave that’s going to hit every company and it’s going to land on every shore. And the sooner I think we as an industry recognized the value in cultivating teams. The other aspect of this is that the number of IT that are going to become open is astronomical. I think your Bureau of Labor Statistics says there’s going to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 31 million open positions by in the year 2020. Just as a result of baby boomers leaving the workforce. The numbers with respect to women are, they represent more than half the workforce to get less than 5% of them are CIOs and only 30% of the workforce are women in IT as a profession.
And so this is just a numbers game. I think companies, if they step back and look at it, will realize this is something that has to be done in order for them to stay competitive and to leverage technology in the way that it needs to be leveraged, in order to drive a company forward.
Sanjog: So if we are saying that this is not happening today and again as a solution you’re suggesting that we as an industry means the CIO troop has to kind of lead the charge. Then we are going to be stuck, what can we do for the organizations to understand that this role is strategic whether or not an individual CIO has performed.
Joe: It’s a great question. I speak a lot to CIOs about this very topic. And oftentimes CIOs struggle to really crack that nut and the simple way that I like to do it is to look at the top line and bottom line a value of what IT is actually bringing to the table. And a way to do that is to take a look at the active project portfolio and map that project portfolio to the strategic enablers that the company has outlined in terms of its strategy. Frankly, if you can find projects in that list that don’t really measure up, I would suggest that maybe you– those are candidates to be paused or removed from the list. And those projects that do fit, identify ways where you can measure business outcomes on those projects. Once you have that sort of analysis done, invite your C-suite executives to come and learn about how the portfolio is really driving the company strategy. The thing about C-suite exact is they don’t like the cost aspect of IT. But if you can take that portfolio projects and help them see how those investments are translating into top or bottom line value, then they will look at IT little differently.
And if you can get them to come to a meeting, let’s say once a month or once every other month for you look at the active portfolio and you talk about how you’re driving top or bottom line, it changes the dynamics of the conversation. There’s nothing magic about it, it’s like for weight loss, the magic answer is eat less and exercise, it’s the same way with IT. You’ve got to look at the actual work you’re undertaking as a CIO and make sure that it actually is driving value in some way, shape or form. And then share that with the executive team on a very regular basis, invite them in.
One of the things about that is, as a CIO if you suggest to a C-suite executive, basically come to a meeting once a month for an hour to talk about IT, how likely that their eyes will roll back in their head and now, their shoulders will slump and they’ll do anything they can to not have that meeting with IT. But if you reorient their thinking to talk about the investment portfolio that IT is undertaken and you can articulate the top or bottom line value in that conversation and have an honest conversation about where that project really is in its life cycle, good, bad and ugly. They’ll start to think about IT differently. And bottom line is IT is just like every other business unit. We have goals and metrics that can be measured and we can be held accountable for. And so I think this is just one way where you can as a CIO began to show the executive team, how IT, it really is a part of the business.
One other thing I would add to that is, if you as a CIO haven’t spent any time in the field of the external customers, this is something I really harp on with the CIOs that I coach. You’re missing out on a massive opportunity to really see customers first hand, you’re able to see how customers engage with your products and services with your own eyes and own ears. And when you do that, you’re going to find pinpoints. And as you’re having conversations with your executive teams, you can describe those pinpoints that you’ve observed firsthand. And then map solutions, technology solutions back to help overcome those problems. That’s a very powerful conversation that you could have with your CEO and there’s nothing like it. So I mean we mess those– those IT as a cost center organizations. If they spend time on the portfolio, if they spend time with external customers, they’d have a significantly, improved opportunity to really game Change the way that the C-suite looks at, the role and naturally morphed into, “Hey, if you’re retiring in three years, let’s start cultivating that next person.” So I think there’s a cascading effect there.
Sanjog: No. That’s a great response. So if you look at the tenure as you said like, if I’m going to retire so. Is this supposed to be a trigger– is this succession planning be triggered through the CIO first or the organization watches for signals and starts proactively into use this concept because we’re again leaving the quality of how IT will deliver, solely in the head of a CIO when it comes to succession planning. Whether the C-suite understands the value of IT or not but there is no sign as such, which says the organization is taking or keeping the control in debts hand versus giving into the CIO?
Joe: Well, great question. I think it’s really the organizations responsibility. Leaders need to think about these things on a regular basis. And most companies in the last five or six years that I’ve been involved with have actually incorporated, I’ll say somewhat formal succession planning. So, not just within IT but also around the organization. So I think this is just another business practice that extends to CIO because IT after all in my opinion is a business unit. And so I think it’s just become a natural part of what leaders do. And so human resources needs to get plugged and the C-suite needs to get plugged in and I would argue that there ought to be at least a conversation once a year, maybe twice a year with the executive team about critical roles. And CIO role would be one of those or might be two or three others within the IT organization, perhaps there’s a leader of the business relationship management team or there is a risk group or security group and there are critical roles. And maybe you want to have that conversation on a regular basis. And if you find gaps, where you don’t have succession opportunities with candidates, you really need to have either a sourcing plan to fill those gaps or a training program to really up the performance of people who have potential and who have performed well in the past.
So I think it’s really incumbent on the company to embrace this idea of succession planning holistically. And if it’s not happening, I think CIO should take it under their own impetus to really build a program across the IT organization looking at the key functions within IT, not just the CIO role, in doing that succession planning all across the board.
Sanjog: So I’d like to introduce an idea where, even the President of United States gets maximum of two terms, which is total of eight years and within that they have to deliver what they can best deliver and not sit on their laurels forever. So if the CIO’s succession planning is seen more as when somebody is retiring versus as someone getting a limited amount of time and which is not limited, it’s like eight years, if that’s what it has to be. And how about letting the CIO showing their mettle and prove with the most value and then pave the way for the next generation of leader or next leader who will bring fresh ideas and be able to take the organization to yet another level versus complacency setting in. And which is also being seen as a byproduct of somebody who is a tenured CIO in an organization, without generalizing it.
So let’s explore this thought, please stay tune listeners, we will be right back.
Sanjog: Welcome back so here what we are talking about is allowing the President of the United States for two terms, but we allow the CIO to be there forever. And if we have that type of an open tenure available, then of course complacency could sit in and also we lose control on when the succession planning should start. How long before that goes for? So how would you address that?
Joe: That’s a really interesting concept. For me, I would say that five to seven years is a good run at a company. And I’ve tended to stay in my CIO role in that same range. For me personally I like the challenge of moving on and getting some fresh ideas and different industries and I’ve been fortunate in my career to be able to find opportunities like that. I think with term limits probably ought to be a concept that we apply to all executive functions, not just the CIO role. But I think at the end of the day if the CIOs are delivering value and you can express it in top and bottom line terms, it’s quite conceivable that you’ll have a CIO that can do that on a sustainable basis. And I think it’s the reality that companies do change and morph over time.
And I was reading a book recently called, Your Strategy Needs A Strategy. And the way companies go to market, in that book it talked about, for example, a company that might be visionary and the tactics it uses to get the market first and to have a model that is unique and different, is probably not a sustainable model over time because it could be copied. And then maybe you need to become more adaptive for you– you have to try to grow things on a wall and see what sticks in the marketplace. And I think those sort of dynamics, the things that really drive a company almost shape the type of CIO you need. And actually the type of leaders you need depending on where you are in your company lifecycle. I think it’s a healthy thing to look at and I think the average tenure of a CIO from the various research you see is somewhere in the five to seven year range right now.
I wouldn’t necessarily impose term limits because you need to do that for the entire C-suite. But I think it’s a healthy way to kind of look at your own career and ask yourself, do you still have the energy and the juice to really do the job. And for me, I can’t speak for all other CIOs but for me I think it’s healthy to take a look at different scenarios. I’m brought a new set of energy to the company that I’m working at now. And I’ve had a blast doing it. And every time you do it, you learn something new and you bring your value to the organizations you work for.
Sanjog: This is an interesting trend where the CIOs that we see today are being brought in from business. And we as a CIO of course, some of us have a background in business. And that’s how we started the career but many of us have the background in technology. How would you think CIO succession planning be done. Yes, if it was left organization, they would perhaps look at a combination of whether somebody has IT and or business. But when you look at a CIO who is come from technology background, what would they do or what should they be doing to widen their lens and let go of that love of technology and say, “Okay, I’m going to get someone who is not the same as I was. And who would be bringing the business side as well and will be a better CIO than me”.
Joe: I think one of the cheap things you can do as an IT professional is to really learn more about the business. If I look at my own journey, I started out as a software engineer and I am in my early 60s now. And I’m sure you can tell by my voice, I’m a much more youthful than that. But I think as a software engineer, you’re focused on what you do as a technology professional is a lot different as you move through the ranks. And I was incredibly fortunate in my past life where I worked for a financial services software company that build solutions for what we now call a cloud environment. They put us through some training and they taught us how to think like product managers. We all got training from the Product Development and Management Association for example. And there as a CIO, it taught me about markets and competitive sustainability and pricing and teacher’s sets and competition and all those things that you don’t naturally think about as a technologist.
And I think to answer the question, I think we have as CIOs, need to be thinking more like that and I’m working closely with our product development teams here at SnapAV, we’re putting together a category management training program. And I’ve actually been asked to frame up that conversation. So we’re teaching our category managers about how to manage their products in the marketplace. And how to do demand planning and how to do forecasting and all those sort of things. Well, I’m not an expert in all those domains but I can certainly structure the program around that. And I think it’s my experience leading products on for products for a commercial purchase that really led to that product management mindset where you really need to understand the market and where your company fits.
So I think that’s where the CIOs and all of IT really need to start spending more time. Understanding the mechanics of the company and understand capitalization, depreciation,, cost of goods sold, you know how to construct a business case if you need to. Those are things that we’ve got to get better at as an industry. And then finding ways to make sure that, if we’re taking a project on, it’s got the top and bottom line value, that’ll help actually move the company forward. So that’s what I think. Technology oriented CIO or a technology minded team needs to really adopt to think about. And that has to be done five fully and proactively. And it shouldn’t happen by happenstance, there should be training put in place. It’s like professional athletes don’t just show up on the basketball court, for example, in the NBA and just become a great player, you’ve got to practice it every day. And so it’s plenty throughout my career. So very few organizations actually work at– actually trying to get that the people who are in these leadership roles the right training. We just throw them in the rows and hope for the best. And I think that’s an area where I think, as we do succession planning, the training aspects of it are becoming I think acutely more important.
Sanjog: If you are to look at a person or a number of candidates for succession planning they could come from IT so. Does that mean that everyone who you have, who you would even consider have to have to be one of your deputies or if you do not have the right level of quality that you have in that cabinet the CIO cabinet which is your lieutenants. Could you go a level below to see if this person is the one who I would train over a period of time to eventually bring up or you would look outside in business to bring someone? And how does that impact? How secretly do you have to do it, in order for you to not have the impact on the lieutenants who otherwise you are having work for you for specific projects and getting them to do the job? When they know, perhaps they’re not to candidates?
Joe: A part of leadership means that you’re nurturing and you’re taking your teams forward. And then every individual and your organization should really understand and know where they stand. And if you make it a secret then the IT organization, you might find them in a position where they don’t trust you as a leader, when you make those sorts of moves. And they come as a surprise. It puts the candidates that would potentially take a position on their heels. And I think it’s much better to be open and proactive about it. And you can do it by just talking about the characteristics and strength you need in order to take on the role. And in my own case, when I left companies– most recently when I left a company that I was working at for a number of years, there really wasn’t a natural candidate internally that would have taken a role. I mean there were some people that were moving in the right direction but I decided to leave the farm. And I gave them a month’s notice and I as part of my departure, I told them that I would help them source local talent to see who my best fit the position. And that’s what I did. I ended up finding ten candidates, they ended up selecting one of those ten. And I think they’re quite happy with it. So in that case, I was doing succession planning by the time horizon for the candidate to take on the role that I was vacating. They were quite ready and that’s the case, we’re going outside make some sense.
You also asked a question about, if you bring somebody in from a non IT function could they perform that role and do it well? And I think the answer is, yes, you could. But I think, I have a natural bias that you really need to have both the technology and business skills. More heavily weighted on the business skills of course. But I think having that bilingual foundation is really critical, so that you can understand and know how to leverage but not that you need to know how to build a note application or write Java Script or know what angular 2.0 is but you do need to understand what those technologies can actually bring to the table and how they might be leveraged organizationally. And if you don’t have any exposure to it has a CIO, you’ll be missing that aspect of your thinking.
Sanjog: So at that time when you’re trying to do the succession planning, is that when you would say, “Okay, this is a person from business who shows all the good traits, who I would like to bring in, plus there’s bilingual or can become bilingual.” And you start teaching them the language off technology versus throwing them in the pool without floaters on day one?
Joe: Yeah. I think when you find a candidate like that and I’ve got a good example here in organization today. I let them practice. I give them some opportunities to present various projects or challenges to the executive team. Sometimes they’re not fun challenges but why does CIO, you don’t often get a chance to work on fun things. And so when you take a candidate who’s on that succession track and you let them practice, they will cut their teeth and you’ll see how they perform and you can coach and nurture them along the way. And so that’s been a big plus for me as I’ve tried to do the succession planning throughout the organization that I’ve worked with.
And sometimes giving them the hard stuff, the drudgery, helps them to understand that being at CIO, while it seems glamorous to those outside the role, it’s a very pressure packed job and you’ve got to deliver every day. You can walk into a conference room for example and if the projector doesn’t come on when you push the button, everyone in the room looks at the CIO, even though I might not even be familiar with the technology in the room. But that’s just a natural thing. So I think letting them practice, presenting concepts and ideas and business cases is good, I also think it’s important that you take those up and coming candidates and let them interact and practice, focusing on the relationships within the company.
And if there is a decision to be made, ask them to articulate, for example, how would you make decision, what decision would you make and if you’re presenting it, how would you deal with the various of the questions you’re going to get asked. So I think once you put a candidate in a role like that, you’ll see whether or not they’ve got the goods or they need a little bit more nurturing or training along the way.
Sanjog: Think about succession planning circa 2005 or maybe year 2000, when the disruption and transformation started happening. Whatever you just mention about the things you would do whether from picking up someone from business or from IT and you will take the steps. Perhaps many of those steps would have been common. Now when we are talking about the pace at which the business is moving, even you would sometime not know what am I supposed to train this person for or coach this person for in order for them to be relevant for the business tomorrow. What are you supposed to do as a CIO, as a leader to find out someone who is a successor and start a grooming process? Please stay tuned listeners, we will be right back.
Sanjog: Welcome back. Joe, you got my question in terms of how succession planning was done earlier versus, now given the pace we are working at and secondly the uncertainty. The shifts, the disruptions that we’re seeing, do you really know yourself as the one who is coach to be able to do something meaningful for this individual for them to become relevant. It’s not about just doing same old-same old. It’s about doing it with a purpose.
Joe: Yeah. If I think back 10 or 11 years, I think IT was is that’s pre-iPhone, Facebook, might have been around, I don’t remember the exact dates. But IT was still thought of more as an operating business unit or an operating unit within the company. And it wasn’t as natural to think about in my opinion about IT as a business unit. And we certainly weren’t involved in strategic planning, 10 or 11 eleven years ago. And so I think what’s changed now is, I think there is an acknowledgment that the age of the customer, the mobile mind shift, computing and big data and all those things are culminating and coming together in a way that, is changing the way companies go to market.
And so I think the succession planning we do now has to take into account. People’s skill set and strength, I think understanding connectedness is one of the cool strengths that I like to look at as a CIO and as you looked for business relationship managers, these are folks that are able to see events in circumstances that others don’t see, to look around those corners. And zoom out and zoom in and try to find solutions. And I think those skills you wouldn’t have probably talked about it all 10 or 11 years ago, now you need to. I think design skills and customer engagement skills are fast emerging as a core to IT organization. I always like to say that, no group can change or shape customer engagement like IT can. With the mobile apps they build and the commerce sites that they build, those are things that touch customers very, very personally.
And I think that we need to contrast that to a focus group that marketing might hold. And you don’t get the same level of power, on the same level of engagement. So I think you’ve got to start thinking about how to shift your succession planning to take into account. Those new business skills, design skills, customer engagement skills, as well as the core understanding of the mechanics of how the business makes money.
Sanjog: One of the best way to produce a product is to get the customer involved and have them shape it as it does develop so they are an automatic consumer of the same, taking that thought and applying it to succession planning, so what if as part of you given the opportunity to find a successor. You involve actively the board and the CEO and other people who eventually are supposed to accept your product that you’re shaping up. How much of that is even possible?
Joe: It’s a great idea. In a kind of treat succession planning as a product, if you’re building a website, you’d do paper prototypes, you do maybe some usability testing on it. You could certainly do that with succession planning process internally. And maybe in the context of that as you’re giving candidates within your team an opportunity to try bringing a business case forward. You position the executive team for example, if they’re going to present the exec team and make that case for an investment. Let them know that this is a task and this is a trial and you need to help nurture this person approve this, this is their first time. So that might be a way to kind of highlight or prototype or go along the lines that you described that you kind of testing it or testing the model along the away. I think it’s a great idea.
Sanjog: And if you are to do that, would do you think there would be a way to– just because you only mention that you’re telling them about the task but if you were to invite them to say, okay, we’re essentially inviting you, to help shape what that succession planning process looks like, so that when we produced the product. It’s like helping them be invited to design the assembly line from which this product will be developed.
Joe: Yeah. I think it’s really, in another way of saying that I think is get their requirements. Make help them articulate, what it is they’re looking for in that function, in that role and verbalize it. And then look for the attributes the skill sets that the candidate would need in order to make that happen successfully. So a great idea to get the executive team to become more engaged in helping to shape, what it is that is success in their minds. That’s a great way to get them to start thinking about the IT function in a different way. Versus just looking at how much did that IT cost. This approach could really give them an opportunity to really weigh in on what skills and business outcomes might I need to look for and what kind of a leader will I need in order to make that happen. So I think it’s a great idea and I think that’s something we should incorporate into our succession planning process.
Sanjog: Now while we speak about ideas, how about looking at the risks and pitfalls in this process which would either render your effort ineffective and will not be appreciated and in fact that could lead the CEO and the board to identify, another CIO outside, totally ignoring what your efforts may have gone into succession planning. Because it is indeed taking some time from your very busy schedule as a CIO.
Joe: Yeah. I think probably the thing that springs to mind is, I process this question is that, a lot of CIOs that I talk to are fearful of actually taking the initiative to actually think though a succession plan. Because of their fear of losing their job, they’re comfortable, this confirmation bias I spoke about earlier. And I think that organizations that fuel that fear, are really doing themselves a disservice. So I think CIO have to kind of be brave about it. I think you have to get over your fear and you have to really think about the big picture. Because at the end of the day, you’re going to make the company stronger and reduce risk. If you take this question on proactively with the board and with your executive team and with your IT team as well. So I think having an honest conversation about the skill sets that you’re looking for and measuring candidates against those skillsets is the right way to do it.
Sanjog: And the last question I would have for you is, if you are to coach your successor, who’s going to be relevant to the organization. The coach should be at least be aware enough, the person should be living what they want another person to live or maybe have that improvisation skill. So as a coach you should be better than the person who you’re coaching. What do you need to acquire as a skill set of skills and competencies before you say, okay, I’m worthy of identifying a successor. Not just because you have a CIO title but that particular title is in this environment which may change tomorrow?
Joe: To me, it kind of wraps around an idea of personal accountability and I think you as a leader, if you have personal accountability and you’re more likely to have great self-awareness, you’re going to assume positive intent. And you’re going to be a person who doesn’t. Indulge and storytelling, you’re going to be a facts before story type of person. And you’re going to support issues, especially when decisions are made about them not to bait them and you’re going to be that sort of a leader. And I think when you adopt that sort of mindset that framework that way of thinking– it actually opens up so many doors and I can tell you in my career when I started to think differently about those things and I started to be a more open and honest about my own performance, than I could talk about them with the mentors and coaches that I had in my leadership. And I could say, this is what I think I need to do, I need an expert in this area to show this function up. So I think it really comes down to getting that person accountability framework adopted as a way of conducting business for yourself first.
Sanjog: On behalf of the show and our listeners, I’d really like to thank you Joe for sharing your thoughts on how organizations can team up with the current CIO and how the current CIO develop the required competencies in an effective process for succession planning so the candidate who eventually has chosen is most relevant for the organization, as it will be in the future when they assume the role. Thank you so much Joe.
Joe: My pleasure, thank you very much. Have a great day.
Sanjog: You too. And listeners, please like us on Facebook, search for CI Talk Radio, follow us on Twitter and join our LinkedIn CIO Talk Radio Group. Thank you again for listening to CIO Talk Radio, this Sanjog Aul, your talk show host. Till next week, take care and God bless.[advertisements] Less