I enjoyed the panel at the launch of this year’s Harvey Nash CIO Survey. It was held at KPMG’s offices overlooking the Baltic Flour Mills on the banks of the Tyne (the queen of all the rivers). There were five of us sitting out front and about seventy people in the audience. They were mostly men by the way and so equality of gender in the tech industry still has a long way to go.
As with all of these events the audience is invited to ask questions and each of us on the panel gets to say what we think. Should the topics dry up then the organisers always have a few up their sleeve.
The topic got round to the balance between whether it is more important for a CIO to focus on keeping the lights on or on innovation. Now you know what I think about such binary questions and sure enough there is no straightforward answer. You can’t move your business forward without innovation but unless you get the basics right then you don’t have any business at all. Keeping the lights on gives you permission to innovate. We all need to get the balance right.
A member of the audience then asked how do we get away from focussing on the day to day activities, the lights on stuff, to give us more time for innovation. His question made me think of what I have been through over the last few years. How do you lift your head form the myriad of distractions that are trying to suck you into the mire?
I thought of three things: Stop making operational decisions, if you keep doing so then you will always be expected to; stop trying to control everything, you can’t and so you need to work out how to enable instead; stop feeling guilty for dreaming.
Taking time out to think about the future of the business is a key part of any CIO’s role and the thing I like about these events is that such questions give me a chance to mull over the way I address the issues and opportunities that I face.
It was nice to be asked.