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Six Questions to Ask Before Branching Out

Six Questions to Ask Before Branching Out

CIOs often look to help out in non-tech departments, but they should ask themselves the following before proceeding

CIOs eager to challenge themselves or prove their worth may be quick to take on additional responsibilities outside of IT. But it may not be best for you or your company if it means IT has to take a backseat. Here are some questions to ask your boss-and yourself-before signing on for double duty in a CIO-plus role.

1. Will it change my position in the company? Find out if the job comes with more money, or with access to the board of directors or executive team. If the additional position does not enhance your standing within the organization, "it may be an indication that they're just dumping something in your lap," says Bobby Cameron, vice president and principal analyst with Forrester Research.

Michael Hites, an associate vice president of administrative IT services with the University of Illinois, adds that if you don't know why you're taking on the role-or if you weren't involved either in creating the position or getting yourself selected for it-you probably should turn it down.

2. Do I want to move out of IT or just supplement my CIO role? Hites, in his previous job as CIO at New Mexico State University, was also in charge of the university's strategic planning process. "I already had experience working with people throughout the entire organization, so taking on a universitywide planning role was a natural extension."

3. Are my objectives clear? Make sure you understand how your success in the new role will be measured. You and key stakeholders should agree about what you're expected to achieve, says Sam Gordon, CIO practice director with Harvey Nash Executive Search.

4. Is my IT organization functioning well? If you're midway through an enterprise software implementation that's teetering on the brink of disaster, it's probably not a good time to add something to your plate. Your IT house should be in order, advises Joe Drouin, VP and CIO for TRW Automotive.

5. Do I need to be the smartest guy in the room? In a non-IT role, a CIO may suddenly find he's got a lot to learn. Not being the expert may put you on the defensive, says Drouin. "You need to have the confidence necessary to cope with this."

6. Am I happiest as the IT guy? "If you bleed IT and truly love the technology side, don't take another role," says Hites. "Your bias will be clear and it will keep you from succeeding."

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