As a private sector CIO who always operated with lean budgets and a need to continuously show "productive" IT, it was hard for me to understand why public IT departments had deputy CIOs or other IT executives committed to the administration function only. But as budgetary, regulatory, contract management, staff training, and talent preparation workloads have grown, I have reconsidered this.

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Priorities

Today's IT is being called upon to deliver accountability and results faster than ever before--and the accountability isn't only in time-to-market for applications or data center results.

New items appearing on CIO priority lists include:

  • Investing in IT talent and human capital management so the company is well positioned for technology initiatives in the future.
  • Delivering returns on investment (ROI) in projects that can directly be attributed to operational savings or revenue generation.
  • Taking on a greater compliance and regulatory responsibility as more user departments get involved with analytics and data but don't know how to steward these resources.
  • Effectively managing new relationships with cloud and other vendors.
  • As always, keeping IT budgets within a few percentile point increases of what they were the year before.

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The business case

Even in midsize organizations, CIOs can no longer take on all these jobs themselves. They need deputies or other higher level managers in the administrative IT function to help them--but they also have to be able to achieve the results that warrant the investment in administrative positions that don't directly produce new technologies and applications. Getting a new employee requisition approved for a higher level manager in administration is no easy task, so a business case needs to be built.

These business cases usually emerge from pain points in IT and the business itself that become so extreme everyone recognizes that something must be done. That may mean:

  • Addressing a company talent drain or inability to recruit needed talent.
  • Curing the "data mess" created by too many users with no knowledge of how to effectively curate or manage data.
  • Finding ways to manage outsource contracts with vendors to get a better return.
  • Implementing security and compliance measures that regulators are demanding.
  • Meeting new demands for ROI on big data as well as on more traditional IT projects.

Recommendations

What are some best practices CIOs can adopt when expanding the role of an IT administration area?

1: Clearly articulate the role and the fit of administration in the IT strategic plan

The buy-in point for the CEO when it comes to IT is approval--and funding--for the IT strategic plan. Typically, the IT strategic plan addresses present and future needs in technologies and applications, staffing, and support for the business. IT should also address administrative IT needs and show how administrative resources will contribute strategically and improve IT and corporate performance. If there are clear linkages to the overall corporate strategic plan, and senior executives understand how administrative IT contributes, there is a greater chance for funding new administrative positions.

2: Develop administrative positions where clear results can be shown

It's not enough to get a position requisition approved and then do a hire. Six months or a year later, the CFO or CEO will want to know what benefits were gained from it. For this reason, administrative hires should be always targeted toward relieving specific business and IT pain points. A good example is a training coordinator who can define and create an internal IT curriculum that teaches new hires the particularities of the company's IT environment so they can be productive on projects in three to six months instead of in six to 12 months. A second example is the hiring of a contract manager who can review vendor contracts and ensure that vendors are financially stable, billings are accurate, and SLAs are defined and enforced.

3: Keep administration lean

The important thing is to hire just what you need for administration and nothing more. When others in the company see that you are hiring just in areas where you can deliver tangible results from the hire, they are more likely to support you.

Final remarks

Deputy administrators are still a luxury for many CIOs, but for those who use them, there is great opportunity to reinvent administrative roles with expanded responsibilities that can handle a new set of needs in training, budget management, contract administration, compliance, and even ROI analyses of projects. Increasingly IT will be expected to deliver measurable results in these areas, which is what makes an administrative focus critical.

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