CIOs are becoming co-creators of new business models. Here’s how to make the first 90 days count.

When starting a new position as a CIO, or even as a chief digital officer, chief technical officer, or another CxO position — the first 90 days on the job sets the foundation for long-term success.

“A newly minted CIO has the opportunity to redefine the CIO officer’s role,” says Sanjay Srivastava, chief digital officer at Genpact. That redefinition comes, Srivastava says, because most companies have evolved to become, effectually, technology companies, and CIOs should no longer view themselves as flight engineers solely focused on IT infrastructure management and keeping the lights on, but instead as pilots and co-pilots.

“CIOs are becoming co-creators of new business models. CIOs stepping into the role for the first time can define the strategic role of the CIO office in driving business transformation,” Srivastava says.

Establish Your Baseline

Most of the experts we engaged with agree that the first step to success in the first 90 days should be to set multiple baselines. These baselines would include staffing and staff capabilities, the organization’s technology, contractors and partners, and gauging business leadership and their current relationship to enterprise technology. This time is more about observing, assessing and listening than selling one’s vision. The goal is to understand the culture, technology environment and business goals executives seek.

Damon Venger, chief information technology officer at CompuCom, explains that in addition to assessing the technical IT environment and infrastructure, it’s important to consider, “the capabilities of the IT staff. During this phase, it’s also important to come to understand the needs and expectations of business leaders, key stakeholders, and business unit leaders,” says Venger.

Establish Trust in Key Relationships

The initial 90 days is also the time to build trust in relationships – ideally, through a series of one-on-one meetings with IT team members, DevOps teams, key stakeholders and other CxOs, discussing their understanding of the organization’s current state with its technology and how well the current environment aligns with business objectives. Furthermore, think about the impediments to progress in the past.

“As a Business CIO focused on the whole business, it will be important to work across the enterprise — particularly what needs to be achieved with those outside the enterprise — vendors, partners, and customers,” says Venger.

Furthermore, the CIO should strive to establish trust and credibility and improve any deficiencies in technology misaligned with the business. Trust is fostered in the beginning weeks by listening carefully to the needs of the teams and promoting communications that embrace transparency and collaboration. “You want to listen closely to what the team and the stakeholders are saying and only develop your plan after you understand the people and the organization,” says Martin Fisher, director of information security and chief information security officer at Northside Hospital.

Too many executives who are also technologists often overlook the interpersonal aspect of the CxO position. “Digital transformation is 80% about people and only 20% about technology,” says Srivastava. “While it’s tempting for a new CIO to focus on technology choices (infrastructure, applications and architecture), the biggest building blocks to tackle are orchestrating change, building strong stakeholder relationships across the organization, and designing for the end-user experience,” he says.

Set Clear Objectives

Setting clear goals and deliverables is also essential.

“Build the strategic plan roadmap, educate the company about it, and achieve initial ‘wins’ to help the enterprise confidently support CIO objectives,” says Venger.

Those early wins can also further the respect of the organization. “Set out to tackle a few missions/challenges within the first 60 days to build confidence/trust from the top company’s executives in you as a leader. As you do this, also occasionally educate the company’s C-level suite and other key managers on your IT gameplan and priorities,” he continues.

“A crucial component of the plan is demonstrating attention to managing IT costs through vendor partnership, contract negotiations, roadmap solutions, moving to the cloud, and so on,” says Venger.

Embrace Frontier Technology

Don’t expect technology change to slow down any time soon. “The pace of change is the slowest it will ever be, as the evolution of generative AI has demonstrated recently,” adds Srivastava.

New CIOs must stay on top of this change and embrace frontier technology, including new concepts around data and AI. “If new CIOs are not thinking about how emerging tech will disrupt their business, their business will be disrupted. One way to stay on top of the rapidly changing technology environment is to invest in and build an innovation center of excellence and fully leverage the ecosystem’s capabilities. Regarding frontier technology, new CIOs should not try to build everything in-house but instead build on the shoulders of others,” advises Srivastava.

Measure What Matters to the Business

Based on the plan, it’s also a good time to measure what will matter to your success going forward. Basic metrics to track often generally include measuring uptime and downtime, mean-time to resolve problems, maintenance events and costs, the ROI on current IT, budget allocation, IT cost as a percentage of revenue, SLA compliance and user satisfaction surveys. However, it’s also essential to measure metrics that are unique to the business.

For instance, if the company is a manufacturer, the CIO should consider getting a baseline for current manufacturing data before delving into new technologies. Establish KPIs: Capture critical core business process metrics to help you prioritize and focus on what matters most.

With the race to business and digital transformation, CxOs must tackle the organization’s most pressing business-technology challenges more swiftly. But it needs to be done intelligently.

“Run IT like a company,” advises Srivastava. “In the current macroeconomic environment, where new CIOs must do more with less, they should prioritize capital allocation, improving operational efficiency, and generating new revenue streams with fewer resources. They can place a few big bets by building optimized workflows to enable small teams to deliver big results,” he says.