The world of business is moving faster than ever. With the growing demand of technology to help do more with less, IT departments are feeling increased pressure to build digital networks able to meet aggressive business goals. Most, if not all, of the responsibility falls on the CIO, and at times, it can be challenging to navigate the day-to-day operations of an IT department.
Mark Settle is a seven-time CIO with broad business experience in information services, enterprise software, consumer products, high tech distribution, financial services, and oil & gas. He has received multiple industry awards and is a three-time CIO 100 Honoree. Mark is the author of Truth from the Trenches: A Practical Guide to the Art of IT Management, a CIO.com contributor, and currently CIO of Okta.
We had a chance to sit down with Mark on an episode of IT Visionaries where he shared his playbook on how to be an effective CIO. Here are some key points from our conversation.
What’s the Cash Flow?
Mark’s first rule for any CIO involves money — and not just dollars and cents. You have to know how it’s flowing.
“As a CIO, you have to understand where the money is going in your company. A lot of your credibility with your peers is based on this.”
The Comfort Zone Limits Innovation
Mark’s second rule for any CIO involves the importance of encouraging your team to step outside their comfort zone to drive innovation and push the limits.
“You need to get your team out of their comfort zone. If you don’t start giving people special assignments outside of their role, they won’t grow.”
It’s Okay To Be Quiet
As the CIO, you have streams of information at your fingertips. It’s your job to understand all that information, and oftentimes, you may feel compelled to tell everyone what you know. Mark warns against this.
“If you’re a first time CIO, you sometimes feel like you have to prove you are the smartest person in the room. That’s not going to lead to much insight from other folks in the room. You have to be disciplined not always to have the first word or control the last topic on any debate.”
Another thing Mark emphasizes is the importance of innovation as a team. Innovation and brainstorming have to involve everyone, including management. As a CIO, you need to understand where your product or service is heading so that you can provide your team with what’s required to move forward.
“Innovation should be a team sport; the whole management team should know what all the balls are that we’re juggling that are moving from stage-to-stage.”
His Final Point
For any first time CIO’s reading this, here is Mark’s one piece of advice that has helped him thrive in IT:
“Be decisive. Don’t wait too long to make changes.”
Mark’s book, Truth from the Trenches: A Practical Guide to the Art of IT Management, is a tried and true guide for anyone working in IT. The pace of technological innovation is only increasing, and the IT department is expected to move just as quickly. But with smaller budgets and limited support from the business, it’s becoming more difficult for CIOs, CTO, and managers to meet that expectation.