Getting Out Of The Engine Room

For many CIOs, all they have time for is dealing with the day-to-day. In this second installment of the 21st Century CIO we look at ways CIOs can find more time for the 'big picture'.


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Posted April 29, 2004

Drew Robb

Drew Robb

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Regulatory complexity, exploding storage demands, constricted budgets. It all adds up to CIO's with their sleeves rolled up or fixated on "immediate ROI" projects. Unfortunately, this means too little time spent on the core of the job description -- IT strategy.

"CIO's and CTO's tend to fall into day-to-day tasks to fulfill the perception among their colleagues or their boards that they be significantly involved in the trenches," said Adam Gwosdof, CTO of Applimation in New York City.

Delegation Of Duty

So how does a CIO who is drowning in the day-to-day move into more of a strategic role? Gwosdof's suggests delegating yourself out of operational tasks by hiring the best and brightest to do it for you, and to re-introduce yourself gradually to the big picture.

This was the methodology adopted by David Kaercher, vice president of IT at Allianz Life Insurance of America. He selected 10 people out of his 100 person IT staff and made them responsible for charting the future.

"I took these staff out of daily operations, gave them a strategic role and made them immerse themselves in business objectives, not IT," said Kaercher. "My job now is reminding them they are on the bridge, not in the engine room."

Fine in theory. But when the Oracle database goes down and millions are being lost each day, the pain is so great that it escalates onto the CIO's plate in milliseconds. And once the disaster is over, CFO's don't want to hear about another $10 million to attain 'five-nines' or $100 million for a redundant data center.

Something Different

Good CIOs find affordable alternatives, such as a military-like disaster recovery (DR) plan. It doesn't cost a lot to drill staff on the anatomy of disaster. Time them every step of the way and shoot for better numbers each time. This shows up the gaping DR holes, and the embarrassment proves helpful in convincing the CIO's second in command to keep his pager handy and be on standby all weekend. The end result is well-groomed DR processes, and a CIO who feels far less threatened by downtime.

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