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The Role Of The CIO

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Donagh Herlihy | CIO | Avon

As a CIO, I would say that what I need to focus on and what I apply my energy to is, first of all, talent. Do we have the right people? I'm a strong believer in the Jim Collins’ saying, "Get the right people on the bus." If you have the right people on the bus, and they're in the right seats—in other words, you have the right talent in the right roles—they can take care of vision, strategy, innovation, and all of the things that you may wrestle with. If you don't have the right people or they're not in the right roles, and they're not in a structure that is going to enable them to be successful, you're fighting an uphill battle. Each time I've come into an organization—and I've been in a few IT organizations—I tend to spend about six months on structure. I spend a lot of time on talent. Then the third area I spend time on is culture. How do you get the right behaviors, the right incentives in place to bring life to the talent in the structure? Because structure on its own doesn't get you too far. Talent gets you a long way, but if you have an entrenched culture and you have the right talent, your culture can still be an impediment. The second thing I'd say is, whether you're a CIO or whatever your position is, business is all about relationships. Even today with e-mail and social media and our ability to maybe not see people face to face as much as we would have in the past, if you really want to get business done in an organization, you need to have a strong network at a peer level and also up and down the organization. You need people who are going to feed you ideas and people who are going to be honest to you about the issues. I think Colin Powell had a saying that the day people stop bringing you trouble, you're in trouble. It was something like that. His intent was if you've become remote, disengaged, and detached from, especially, people more junior than you, and they feel they can't bring you bad news, then that's the beginning of the end. That strong network up and down, across the organization is something I put a lot of time into. The third thing is just the extension of that: Have a strong network outside the organization. You have other CIOs, other IT leaders, but also other business leaders. People are in completely different industries, trying to do different things that might make your brain hurt sometimes as to why are they trying to do that. But sometimes you get a new insight from those conversations that can be the innovation for your own business model.

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