Top 10 Guidance Tips to New CIOs and IT Leaders

It's been awhile since my last post. What can I say, the first 100 days of being CIO at a new job is busy. There's people to meet, the business to learn, and the technology to understand. Some things need immediate attention, others are things that can be dealt with later. It's easy to be overwhelmed.

So, almost halfway into my 100 days, I can give new CIOs some advice. This goes beyond building the 100 day plan which I think is critical to stay focused. This is my practical guidance to CIOs, but also anyone taking a new senior technology leadership position:


  • Ask lots of questions - The advantage of being the new guy is that people should expect it. I've been very fortunate in this new position and everyone's been a good sport. Questions not only help you build up your understanding, but also may help others see things from new perspectives. Occasionally, asking questions will expose an issue, but better then than later. And sometimes asking questions will help develop a culture of dialogue and collaboration
  • Always be prioritizing - Your time now is at a huge premium. Set your schedule, but be prepared to change it as you recognize immediate vs. short term needs.
  • Find ways to contribute early - Some call this quick wins, but even before that, relationship building is easier when it is two way. 
  • Listen - Some of the 'books' on management strongly suggest setting expectations with your staff early. I think before you set structure with your team, set time to first engage, listen, and learn. 
  • Slowly zero in on the priorities - I stress here on the word slowly. It means go broad and learn more before setting new priorities.
  • Understand the business cycles and key dates - When are budgets done? When are the peak sales cycles? When are deployments scheduled? On my first week, I asked my directs to send me a list of key dates. All of this will help you prioritize your time and consider the timing of new initiatives.
  • People come before Process and Technology - CIOs tend to think in this trio, but in the first 100 days, focus needs to be on people and relationships first, process second, and technology a distant third.
  • Be prepared to run - Move fast. You have lots to learn, stuff to do, and plans to build.
  • Look for burning platforms - If I put 100 CIOs in a room, I doubt anyone would say that everything was running well when they took the job. In addition to priorities, you have to hunt down the issues - the ones everyone tells you about, but more importantly, the ones that no one recognizes.
  • Leadership starts early - Don't expect to sit in the back seat even though your the newbie. Your team, your colleagues, and your boss expect you to step up early. Will you be perceived as just the tech person, or as someone with a broader business understanding? Whether and how you participate is key to everyone's early perceptions.

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