Where CIOs Should Be Investing

Larry Bonfante, Founder, CIO Bench Coach | 10/8/2013 | 14 comments

Larry Bonfante
With the 2014 budgeting process well underway at some enterprises, this is a good time to consider what CIOs should be investing in. There are always more "good things" to do than money and people to do them. Here are a few things I think are priorities for organizations to invest in.

Everybody is talking about big-data. If you're focusing on the "big" in big-data you might be doing it wrong. The real goal is to figure out what data you need, what data you have, and how to bridge the gap between the two. And then you need to know how to aggregate that data into one place and how to allow your clients to access that data in an easy-to-use fashion whenever and however they need access to it. Whatever the size of your data, it isn't useful if you aren't looking at it this way.

We also need to understand the consumers of our products and services will increasing engage with us digitally. Whether that means social media, or enhanced web capabilities, or any one of a dozen other things, it's important that we find ways to directly engaged with our community in an authentic, real time and responsive fashion. That's a lot more complicated than it sounds. [Editor's note: Look for articles on this topic from our CIOs in the coming weeks.]

I'm a big believer that mobile platforms will soon become the primary device used by many professionals. Whether you interpret this as a tablet device, a phone or some hybrid of the two, in my opinion the days when people make huge investments in either desktop or even laptop devices will be limited to specialty situations.

Of course, every organization is different. Your need areas will differ. To get a better handle on your budget priorities, I suggest an exercise like this:

Step one: On the left-hand column of a whiteboard, write down the three to five things that truly matter most to your company. This may be launching a new product or service, entering new markets, expanding to new geographies, enhancing customer intimacy, or a dozen other things.

Step two: Down the right-hand column of the same whiteboard, write down all of the projects you are either currently working on or are considering asking for funding to support.

Step three: Connect the items in the left-hand column with the items in the right-hand column. In many cases you will find that there are a bunch of projects or proposed projects that simply don't "connect" to the things that truly matter.

Unless you work in a company that has unlimited human and financial resources (and if you do please call me so I can come work with you), it's imperative that we are judicious about where we invest our limited human and financial resources. Too many IT organizations are running projects with no business sponsor, no tangible business ROI, and that nobody in the business even cares about. This is a recipe for failure.

What kinds of capabilities are you investing in? What kind of competitive advantage do you hope they will provide your organization? I'd love to hear what you are up to and why you are making these investments.

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shakeeb   Where CIOs Should Be Investing   11/22/2013 9:34:58 PM
Re: whiteboard
@Pedro I agree with you. The priority has to be set at the initial stage before the project start. Otherwise it will be just a waste of time and resources.
batye   Where CIOs Should Be Investing   10/14/2013 2:59:21 AM
Re: what I love about this most
yes, as communication is a key... and leader must have this set of skills... no other way...
batye   Where CIOs Should Be Investing   10/14/2013 2:56:40 AM
Re: whiteboard
could not agree more, great info, good ideas thank you
Broadway   Where CIOs Should Be Investing   10/9/2013 10:44:44 PM
Re: what I love about this most
@Sara, that sounds like the worst kind of leader. A good leader articulates his or her vision for the organization and its direction. They don't hide that direction from the people who have to get the company there!
Qasim Bajwa   Where CIOs Should Be Investing   10/9/2013 6:13:01 PM
Re: whiteboard
no business sponsor, no tangible business ROI - a clear recipe for failure, i agree Larry, Your business is only sustainable if your'e making the right choices for it's sustainability. Big Data no doubt has sent out a shock-wave throughout the business model followed previously in the industry, While not only compelling organizations to fill the gap existing between what the customer wants and what the company can deliver but also having the proactive approach to things.

Although Data as you mentioned has valuable insights to offer, conditioning its looked at the right places in the right manner, I still think if your organization lacks sustenance, then you better strengthen the base first, before you plan to build another storey.
Sara Peters   Where CIOs Should Be Investing   10/9/2013 3:02:07 PM
what I love about this most
What I love most about this advice, Larry, is that the first step requires you to really understand your organization's big picture -- and that's something that some of us either have a hard time seeing.

However... on other occasions CEOs and CFOs keep the real business plans to themselves, making it hard for the rest of us -- even CIOs -- get a clear picture of what they should be trying to accomplish. Have you ever experienced that? Could that be used as a way to convince top management that they need to communicate more (and more honestly) with CIOs and IT directors?
Pedro Gonzales   Where CIOs Should Be Investing   10/9/2013 12:13:47 PM
Re: whiteboard
great article. I completely agree, if we set priorities on the activities we are doing and the amount of investment we are willing to give to that activity, the company can focus their limited resources on the right things.
sherly_mendoza   Where CIOs Should Be Investing   10/9/2013 10:07:05 AM
Thank you so much for your suggestions, Larry! They're really useful and I'm sure I'll achieve goals when I get down to doing the three steps you discussed. Sometimes, we tend to move too fast that we forget to think cohesively. The result is usually a scattering of ideas and priorities that we're not able to set straight. With the three major steps you suggested, it will be easier to identify which project or task should be given most attention (and budget!). There's no need to rush through as if time is running out. Also, I agree with Ariella, the whiteboard process helps interpret plans into visions. So you'll have like a visual roadmap to guide you through your budgeting task! That definitely helps make things easier!
SaneIT   Where CIOs Should Be Investing   10/9/2013 7:46:52 AM
Re: whiteboard
It might not even have to go to R&D, it might just be a "future" project that you have to wait on until some other pieces fall into place.  Having that on your white board will help you road map that item though since you can see what else is taking priority.
Nomi   Where CIOs Should Be Investing   10/9/2013 6:55:03 AM
Re: whiteboard
A real thought provoking article. I think we must realize quickly what we need and what we have. A white board solution is a good option but not the only one. What we want to do, we need to understand and implement quickly.
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