Secrets of a Successful CIO: #1 - Be Well Informed


Published under CIO by Hardeep Mehta on September 03, 2017


As a Chief Information Officer, it may seem like a daunting task to know the ins and outs of every project your employees are working on. This is not to say you need to know all the details, but you need to know the trajectory of a certain project or the workings of a certain software service being utilized. For example, an employee is working on implementing live chat to your ecommerce website. Do you need to know that the service is implemented using JavaScript? Does it make a difference that code is on a specific number of pages in order to launch the service?

Be Well Informed: Know What's Being Implemented

Here are a few examples of items that CIOs should be aware of in regards to a service such as live chat:

  • Does it launch immediately on the home page when the site is loaded, or is there a call to action elsewhere
    It's important to measure the effect of having live chat readily open for a customer to start typing into or if there is an extra click to initiate the service. A general concept like this will not only affect the customer, but will be an interdisciplinary matter that stretches across different departments.
  • Does it appear on every page?
    If live chat only appears on the homepage, how will this affect customer service? Since live chat is meant to free up phone lines for customer service, will that team feel more of an impact if live chat cannot be reached from other pages?
  • How fast is it to disable, in case an issue arises?
    Since most live chat services are implemented by a snippet of JavaScript added to a website, several issues could arise, including:
    • Loading of service could conflict with other services on website being loaded with JavaScript, causing live chat to not appear right away
    • Code snippet was not written correctly or implemented on correct page by one of your developers
    • Live chat vendor could have technical issues on their side, such as database errors or updated libraries causing downtime
    While it's not important to know all of these technical details, it's imperative to understand that no service is 100% bug or error-free. There should be a plan of action if an issue were to arise.
  • When are agents available to service live chat?
    You need to know this in order to coordinate with the customer service team. Is live chat something they only want their in-house team to manage? This would mean live chat would only be available during their specified hours, leading to less potential problems outside work hours. If live chat were to be available past this time, you must determine if someone from your team should be on-call for any technical issues.

Be Well Informed: Know That You're the Point Person

Why it's beneficial to understand all the projects under your management is simple: if there are issues with a service, you become the point person. You may have project managers or technical leads within your group already designated to each project, but when the ball drops, you become accountable for picking it up.

The following are times when others will come to you about a project or service:

  • Discrepancies in an agreement or contract, or requirements to a project changes
    The higher up in the management hierarchy you are, the more responsibility is given to you in regards to budgeting and contracts. There will be many times where vendors will charge for customization of services or try to include more features that weren't agreed upon in the first contract. You have the expertise and skill to negotiate contracts if need be. Also, if other departments are acquiring technical services from vendors, they may come to you in order to understand fully what they're signing up for and what they will be getting.
  • A final say or approval is needed
    You may have managers in your group that sign off on contracts for services they need, but if they have questions about an agreement, they will come to you. Be ready to understand what they need and how to mediate the situation. If one of your managers if not satisfied with a service they've implemented, for reasons such as customer dissatisfaction or buggy implementation, you have the final say on whether they should pull the plug or not.
  • Projects are taking longer than planned to implement
    With your status as CIO, you are entitled to more information than others may be able to obtain. If a service from a vendor is straying from a timeline, you are able to get in touch with the vendor and speak to someone that can discuss fully what's going on. You have the power to keep things moving. Negotiate to get more resources on the project.
  • Other upper management will most likely contact you over others in your group
    The Chief Marketing Officer of your company wants to discuss ways to improve user experience for a project under your management. The typical protocol is that the CMO will come to you to discuss these ideas, then you will discuss them with the member of your team in charge of the project. Very rarely will the CMO bypass you and connect with your team member. You and the CMO “speak the same language”; you're knowledgeable of high-level concepts that could affect many aspects of the company. You will have a better discussion of the impact of their requests on the company as a whole, before getting into the technical details.

Being well-informed of projects under your management will not only help you feel you have good control over your team and their work, other upper management will applaud you for your understanding and actions towards what's happening in your department. You will come off as a reliable asset to the company you work for.