Georgetown CIO: 3 ways to make a strong start as a CIO

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What leaders really do CIO

If you find yourself as a CIO in an up-and-coming enterprise, I have three pieces of advice that should serve you well.

1. Know the business. By “know the business” I mean you need to understand the organizational mission, how business strategy drives that mission, in order to best create strategy for technology to enable and drive that business forward. Knowing the business also requires knowing what your stakeholders need and your business units need, and integrating solutions to address those needs into your strategy.

One of the statements I use all the time with my board of directors is that we need to be technologically competitive, not just relevant, to continue to compete with our peer institutions in the top 25 universities in our space in the next 10, 15, or 20 years. The ability to make that statement requires an understanding of business strategy and technology.

2. Understand today's technologies. To my previous point, you certainly need to understand today's technologies. Technology is changing so quickly that part of your role is just to stay abreast of what is occurring. To be able to speak to and drive and leverage those technologies at the C-Suite, you need to have an understanding of what they are. You also have to communicate well about what the options are today, how they'll impact the business, and what teams should be thinking about in the future.   

C-Suites that get this recognize that the CIO must be at the table and must be a partner. Whether the topic is analytics and big data, digital, mobile, or cloud, CIOs must lead a lot of these discussions.

3. Communicate clearly – and often. My final point is that you need to be a communicator. I cannot overemphasize the importance of this. Communication for a CIO includes building your status as a thought leader about the business impact of technology so that others will want you at the table having those conversations. One thing I've learned over the years is that the technology isn't the hardest thing to do, it’s always the change management. It’s leading that change. Communication is required to not only have people understand why technology is an important part of the solution, but also in leading the change to business process to make that change fully realized for your business.

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Lisa Davis is Vice President for Information Services and CIO at Georgetown University. Prior to being recruited to Georgetown University, Ms. Davis served in various technology leadership roles during her 26-year career in the federal government. Most recently she was Assistant Director of IT and CIO of the U.S. Marshals Service. She has been recognized as an outstanding leader in the design and delivery of infrastructures and applications to solve complex business problems.

Lisa Davis is the vice president and general manager of Supply Chain IT at Intel Corporation. Prior to Intel, she was the chief information officer at Georgetown University, Ms. Davis served in various technology leadership roles during her 26-year career in the federal government. Most recently she was Assistant Director of IT and CIO of the U.S. Marshals Service.

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