In today’s knowledge-based economy, the functions of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) are becoming increasingly complex and multi-dimensional. This complexity has resulted in high turn-over, leading to the nickname, Career Is Over.  In spite of this, some twenty-two CIOs/CTOs topped the $1 million annual compensation mark in 2010, according to Janco’s research. With this remuneration comes greater expectations.  These folks better be providing significant value to the business. How do executives contribute more than they already have?

Generally, working more hours is not an option.  This leaves working smarter. Thinking and acting more strategically will differentiate top tier managers from their less resourceful counterparts, allowing them to increase value. According to the research company Ovum, in their report from Dec 2011, “Big data analytics, security and cloud computing will be three of the most significant drivers of technological change in 2012.” It also predicts “that CIOs will become major enablers of innovation for the business, playing a central role in operational & commercial strategy.”

Sounds wonderful, but IT departments are undergoing yet another massive upheaval, led by cloud computing, social media, and IT consumerisation. Terms like BYOD or BYOS (Bring Your Own Devise/Software) are commonplace as the personal computer gives way to personal mobile devices like smart phones and pads.  These trends, coupled with the proliferation of social media, bring instant transparency and creates a new level of user demands with new security issues. Managing through these changes while delivering is a tall order.

This month’s letter will give some tips to help you lead and navigate your organization into the next decade:

  1. Decisions – Be decisive:

Making snap decisions can be more cost effective than taking significant time to evaluate all aspects of a decision. The issue of decision-making is being considered on a much wider level than by only productivity gurus. The New York Times posted a column from John Tierney on their website titled “The Price of Dithering.” Dithering really can be quite expensive. An inability to move forward on a decision or project has a hidden opportunity cost that does not appear on an income statement. In addition, the financial upkeep required to have your team ready to spring into action once a decision has been made is high. Avoiding these price tags is a matter of improving your ability to make rapid fire decisions and move on. Taking 6 months to save the company 10% on the cost of a project could cost twice in unseen costs  than it saves.

2. Communications – Be direct

Use clear, concise, and complete communication with your staff and customers.  By implementing direct communication with management of large companies, you can recover an additional 13 percent of their time (spent on planning or other high value activities). Such strategic thinking builds innovative businesses with increased profitability, happy employees and satisfied customers. Ensure your communications have sufficient context to assist your team in understanding decisions and rationalize initiatives.

3. Simplicity – Less is more

Theoretical scientists spend their lives looking for simple answers or solutions. The reason is complexity is difficult to recreate. Take a recipe, the easiest and quickest are the recipes you will use most often. Business processes are the same.  Humans are inherently lazy and will seek the path of least resistance.  Simple solutions will always be more appealing than highly complex ones, even if the simple one is not quite as good. It is often more difficult to design simple processes initially, but it has the biggest pay-off and highest adoption rate.

4. Plan for the future.

This seems self-evident, but so many fall pray to the feeling that they do not have enough time to create a plan. By creating a road map of where you want to take your organization, you significantly increase the odds of actually getting there. Without planning, managers fail to make effective decisions, which leads to chaos and inefficiency.  By having a plan in place, you make decisions faster  and can choose or select components based on whether they align with the intended direction you want to take your organization.

Many things are changing around us and we are entering new phase: cloud and mobile are the keys to this evolution.  Yet many things remain universal.  All humans desire subsistence, protection, affection, understanding, participation, leisure, creation, identity and freedom. Great managers seek to provide these to their team even during the greatest technological changes.