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Straight to the Top: Becoming a World-Class CIO

Straight to the Top: Becoming a World-Class CIO

Gregory S. Smith

ISBN: 978-1-119-20143-4 August 2015 240 Pages



You have what it takes to be a CIO. Do you have a strategy for getting there? Now you do.

"Gregory Smith has written the definitive work on how to achieve leadership success in IT. This well-written and carefully researched book is a must-read for any IT professional with aspirations toward the top IT spot. Years from now, seasoned IT leaders will be crediting Smith's book with playing a role in their success."
—Martha Heller, Managing Director, IT Leadership Practice, Z Resource Group, and cofounder, CIO Executive Council

"Wow! Put all the tips, advice, and strategies in this book to use now. The road to the top is rarely straight—follow Gregory's advice and the path will reveal itself to you!"
—John R. Sullivan, CIO, AARP

"While most professions have a distinct road map to the top, there is no standard career path to becoming a CIO. Smith addresses this unique challenge and provides aspiring CIOs with encouragement, advice, and essential skills based on years of his own and other CIOs' cumulative experience -- an important effort for the profession that Smith's fellow members in the CIO Executive Council embrace and applaud."
—Mark Hall, General Manager of the CIO Executive Council

"Teaching students what a CIO really does has been tough. We've had to choose between anecdotal treatments based on trade press articles and integrated academic frameworks that offer little in the way of lived experiences. Greg's book fixes that. By organizing interviews with leading technology executives, trade press reports, and his own experiences as a CIO, he provides an organized and comprehensive view of the job and its important role in modern organizations."
—Fred Collopy, PHD, Professor and Chair of Information Systems and Professor of Cognitive Science, Case Western Reserve University



Part 1. Building the Necessary Skills and Relationships.

Chapter 1: Key IT Skills to Have.

The CIO and the CTO—What’s the Difference?

The Changing Role of the CIO.

State of the CIO.

How Important Are Core Technology Skills?

What Did I Do to Prepare?


Chapter 2: Methodologies, Projects, and IT Change Management.

What Are Methodologies and Why Are They Important?

Project Management—The Key to Success.

IT Change Management—The Key to Minimizing Unnecessary Downtime.

Change Management Automation Tools.

What Did I Do to Prepare?


Chapter 3: IT Standards and Governance.

The Importance and Benefits of IT Governance.

IT Policies and Procedures.

IT Standards.

IT Strategies, Investments, and Budgeting.

Communicating IT Standards, Policies, and Processes.

What Did I Do to Prepare?


Chapter 4: Learn the Business and Build Key Relationships.

Think Like a Consultant to Learn the Business.

How to Build Effective Relationships—Internal and External.

Getting Quick Wins to Establish Credibility and Trust.

Focus on Delivery, Delivery, Delivery.

What Did I Do to Prepare?


Chapter 5: Effective Communication Skills and Styles.

Break Out and Communicate.

Think, Write, and Speak.

Managing Expectations.

Communicating Project Wins—Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due.

What Did I Do to Prepare?


Part 2. Preparing for the Role of the CIO.

Chapter 6: What Executive Recruiters Are Looking For.

Recruiting Trends for IT Executives.

Contacting and Working with an Executive Recruiter.

Preparing for a Meeting with an Executive Recruiter and Negotiating to Win.

Survey Results from Executive Recruiters.

What Did I Do to Prepare?


Chapter 7: Building the Right Network.

Develop Your Technology and Business Network Early.

Where Do Consultants and Vendors Fit In?

Find a Solid Mentor.

Don’t Ignore Your Staff.

Great Forums for Networking.

What Did I Do to Prepare?


Chapter 8: Vendor and Sports Management.

Partnerships—The Key to Success.

Measuring Performance.

Knowing When to Outsource.

The Secret to Outsourcing Success.

Integrating Sports to Build Relationships and Grow Your Network.

How Much Business Is Done Out of the Office?

The Vendor Response.

What Did I Do to Prepare?


Chapter 9: Contract Negotiation and Financial Management.

Contract Negotiation Tips and Best Practices.

Service Level Agreements.

Financial Management—Think Like a CFO and Act Like a CIO.

Budgeting and Forecasting—Aligning IT with Business Strategy.

Tools to Minimize Financial Risk.

Making Friends with the CFO.

What Did I Do to Prepare?


Chapter 10: Risk/Reward and Knowing When to Jump.

Risk and Reward—Nothing Wagered, Nothing Gained.

How to Mitigate Risks and Still Succeed.

Common Mistakes Made.

When It Makes Sense to Jump to the Next Company.

What Did I Do to Prepare?


Chapter 11: The Role of the CIO—Enabler and Visionary.

Expectations for New CIOs.

The Top Five Mistakes Most Often Made by CIOs.

The First 100 Days—Tips from World-Class CIOs.

CEO and CIO Common Gaps in Expectations.

What Did I Do to Prepare?


"…should be required reading for all present or aspiring CIOs." (eweek, December 25, 2006)