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Why a CIO's Last 100 Days Are Most Important

It is incumbent on outgoing CIOs to offer up some sort of transition plan, something that will get the IT function from point A to point B with as little disruption as possible.

Much has been made about the first 100 days of a new CIO’s tenure, and with good reason. Those first months are the time when an incoming CIO forms business relationships with new colleagues, gets to know his or her new IT division, along with its challenges and opportunities, and begins to more deeply understand the political and cultural landscapes of the company. 

It’s also during this early period that new CIOs begin to germinate a vision for their tenure based on all of the feedback and data points they’ve received, and if plans don’t exist to execute that vision, begin to craft and put them into place. So yes, the first 100 days are crucial for any new CIO.

However, I’d like to posit another view of how important 100 days can be. Because, as exciting as the first 100 days are for any new CIO, I would suggest that they are not as important as what happens on the other end of the CIO’s tenure, the last 100 days. 

[Previously from Petersmark: Tech Rising, but CIO Influence Falling?]

It’s certainly not as exciting to think about, nor is it as pleasant to live through, but the reality is that almost every CIO will experience a final 100 days sometime in his or her career. (That’s assuming, of course, that the CIO knows that last 100 days is coming, but that’s another column for another time.) 

I’ve had my own last-100-days experience, and upon reflection I now view it as much more impactful than my first 100 days as CIO at the company. Why? Well, if you’re experiencing a last 100 days, that means that some sort of transition is in the works. It doesn’t necessarily imply that it’s an unpleasant one, as increasingly CIOs are being tapped for other positions in the organization. 

However, more likely than not it means that as the CIO you have decided, or somebody else has decided, that it’s time to move on. In organizations that are serious about their technology (and what organizations aren’t, nowadays?) there are very few circumstances under which the leader of the IT function is abruptly ushered out. It’s just too disruptive to all concerned -- employees, agents, and even customers -- if technology stops functioning smoothly. So that means something else has to happen. 

And that something else is what a CIO’s final 100 days is all about. Whether the departure of the CIO is considered a graceful exit or something else, it’s important to keep in mind that there are bigger issues at play, and that is insuring the continued smooth operation of all facets of the business technology of the organization. That means that it is incumbent on an outgoing CIO to offer up some sort of transition plan, something that will get the IT function from point A to point B with as little disruption as possible. 

[How MassMutual Builds a Data Science Pipeline]

This has everything to do with the professionalism of the CIO and the people and functions the CIO represents, and very little to do with things like internal politics, bruised egos, and damaged pride. A thoughtfully planned final 100 days makes all the difference in the world and, done well, allows the outgoing CIO to provide one more invaluable service to the organization. And, in a funny sort of way, it can be a very uplifting thing for the CIO, especially when the CIO plays a part in sourcing his or her replacement.   

And no, this is not about a CIO’s ultimate legacy at an organization. That’s something that plays out over time for any CIO. Rather, this is about CIOs doing the right thing, both for their organizations, but most especially, for themselves. As a famous (movie) Roman general turned gladiator (Russell Crowe as Maximus in Gladiator) once said, “What we do in life echoes in eternity.” All CIOs would do well to keep that in mind.        

Frank Petersmark is the CIO Advocate at X by 2, a technology consulting company in Farmington Hills, Mich., specializing in software and data architecture and transformation projects for the insurance industry. As CIO Advocate, he travels the country meeting CIOs and other ... View Full Bio
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