More IT projects crash because of politics than anyone would give credit for, says Gartner analyst Tina Nunno.
CIOs can't afford to stand aloof from company politics if they are to deliver the benefits of IT, she said at Gartner's annual symposium in Cannes today. However, there are "very predictable" landmines they need to avoid.
CIOs are competing with their colleagues in other areas of the business for control, resources, status and power. Any and all of these are potential flashpoints for the unwary CIO because the shifts in these areas indicate winners and losers, Nunno said.
The sooner they understand that and develop the skills to use it to their advantage the sooner they will be able to get the respect and power they need to do their jobs, she said.
Nunno recommended CIOs take a look at Machiavelli, whose The Prince, a handbook on how to acquire and hold power has been bedtime reading for leaders since Lorenzo the Magnificent, for whom it was written.
"IT is frequently in a difficult position because we cross the entire organisation," she said. This breadth of vision means CIOs often know better what is going on than their colleagues, and this can lead to jealousy and negative behaviour, she said.
CIOs could use their cross-disciplinary view to understand the different agendas in play. "Very often they will discover the different agendas have more in common than they thought," she said.
She said CIOs needed to understand the organisational culture. "Aligning yourself with the CEO may be the right thing to do because the CEO ultimately controls access to resources. But if you work in a meritocracy, it might not go down well. You need to align your IT agenda with those of the other agendas to be successful."
She said many IT teams will feel there is one best solution, one right thing to do. "If that doesn't fit with what the other stakeholders want, you can hit a political landmine. There is no one right way. That's why as a CIO you should always have ready multiple options," she said.