Conference sets out the seven habits of highly effective IT chiefs

This Thursday (5 June) at the AMR Research Spring Executive Conference in Arizona, Colleen Niven, AMR's vice-president research,...

This Thursday (5 June) at the AMR Research Spring Executive Conference in Arizona, Colleen Niven, AMR's vice-president research, will outline the "seven habits of highly effective IT chiefs".

In an interview last week, Niven spoke to Computer Weekly about how the role of IT leaders is changing. "CIOs are burdened by the legacy of high fixed costs, the price of failure, balancing the skills of their IT team and evolving IT strategy," she said. Niven warned that there is a lack of innovation among CIOs today, as they focus on taking costs out of the business.

Her seven tips for success start with planning for the future. "CIOs need more forward-looking IT strategies." She said the effective CIO will be "an architect of architects". One example of a company with such a strategy is chemicals firm Alcoa, which Niven said has an ongoing process for creating IT standards.

The second in Niven's list is establishing IT governance. She said, "The only way to get better control of your IT budget is to establish a steering committee to keep control of spending."

Third is focusing on cost containment. Niven said this strategy has paid dividends at pharmaceuticals giant Eli Lilly, where IT has proved it can be used effectively to bring products to market more quickly.

Niven also recommended that IT directors drive results by running their IT departments as a business, complete with a service-orientated approach to IT delivery. Her key message to IT chiefs is, "You need to become customer-focused."

On managing relationships with suppliers, Niven said, "People do not realise that a successful outsourcing agreement needs change management."

Another tip for IT success was to "transform data into knowledge". For example, Niven said Ford is using the data it holds on warranty claims to make improvements in its dealer network.

Niven also said successful IT directors align IT strategies with business objects and pointed out that that CIOs are becoming more business-savvy. "Many CIOs have a business degree," she said. "A large number have MBAs." Niven said she has noticed cross-pollination between business and IT.

Niven's seven tips for IT directors

  • Plan for the future
  • Establish IT governance
  • Focus on cost-containment
  • Run the IT department like a business
  • Manage change management with outsourcers
  • Transform data into information
  • Align IT strategy with business goals.

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