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​6 questions that a CIO doesn’t want to be asked

​6 questions that a CIO doesn’t want to be asked

David Gee lists his top six all too common questions that CIOs don't like being asked.

As a CIO, you’re fielding questions from your boss, peers and customers every day, and there are some that you get asked with surprising regularity. Over time, you’re often asked the same question over and over again, which is highly frustrating.

Here’s my top six all too common questions that CIOs don’t want to be asked.

1. Why should the BI team sit inside IT?

“We can do business intelligence (BI) without IT – we can simply buy a BI toolset with a credit card and get going.” Sound familiar?

The truth is that most organisations are not that well advanced with their journey to information management, let alone big data or analytics. My view is that there is a clear maturity that needs to be reached with enterprises. This will mean we have to get established data warehouses with robust data glossaries and metadata.

Once this is in place and properly governed, BI will sit comfortably outside IT. The problem is when you haven’t addressed the fundamentals, splintering will only make your data more fragmented.

2. Can’t we just test and release software faster?

This is a common frustration for the CMO and product managers. CIOs and their teams can never test and release products faster enough to keep these guys happy.

There’s a way to get around this. Defend yourself by talking about the progress your team is making using Agile to draw up more accurate business requirements and speed up the software development process.

Explain that you are also coming to grips with DevOps. There has to be an investment in test management and automation, and this is usually a large number.

Once this is fully operational, it is possible to accelerate the process.

3. Why can’t just we plug this into the architecture?

This is an old favourite. These days, everyone is a ‘digital expert’ and they see boundless opportunities to digitise every process. To tackle this, you need to create an architecture blueprint and strategy that is approved by management.

Once you have a concrete agreement on the directions, then these questions become easier to handle. Yes, we can plug it in but unless this is truly business critical and fits into this blueprint, then it will be dealt with later.

4. Could I pay for this out of the IT budget?

The IT budget is a bottomless pit and the problem is that once you set such as precedent, this never stops. What is important is that you establish IT principles around what is IT spend and business spend.

I recall once having close to $1 million spent by one division on laser printer toner cartridges. While you want to get the benefits of centralised purchasing, it was clear that this facility was being somewhat abused.

It is never a popular job being CIO, but someone has to pay.

5. Why aren’t all the compliance and audit items completed?

My experience is that when audit items occur, the CIO is the proxy for the enterprise, even when the action has been assigned to a business contract. For some reason we have wide shoulders and take on these ‘extra’ curricular activities.

Unfortunately, the CIO is the one that usually fronts the audit committee to explain, even when it isn’t his or her accountability.

6. When will the new system be stable?

You have to avoid thinking, how long is a piece of string? When you are a CIO and there have been system outages or issues associated with a new implementation, it can be the case that you can feel ‘punch drunk’.

There is no place to duck and you have to face the music. What’s a good retort? Well, whatever you say can be misinterpreted, so tread carefully.

What I would demonstrate is that there is 100 per cent commitment to working the issues and that the team is fully engaged and wants to provide a solution.

Prioritise where you focus and ask for some space to fix the issue and the underlying problem. Tell the user you’re working hard on it.

If all else fails, just tell them you have to run to a meeting.

David Gee is the former CIO of CUA where he recently completed a core banking transformation. He has more than 18 years' experience as a CIO, and was also previously director at KPMG Consulting. Connect with David on LinkedIn.

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