10 Ways To Become A "CIO Plus"

I had the pleasure of speaking with Joanna Young, CIO of the University of New Hampshire, the largest University in the state of NH with approximately 15,000 students across three campuses. Recently named one of "The 50 Most Social CIOs", Young has learned to embrace technology and use it as an advantage to increase her contribution as a CIO and become a "CIO Plus" - a term she coined in her blog post, "Plus is the New Normal". In her role as CIO, Young has seen a greater proportion of her time shift from tending to the nuts and bolts of IT to working with the business. Here Young gives insight into how the role of the CIO needs to evolve in order to contribute to the business and help to drive the results of the organization.
10 Ways to Become a "CIO Plus"

  1. Wear the hat of "CFO" - The CIO needs to have a deep understanding of the business role to be effective and to do that means understanding how the organization makes revenue, what the organization is spending and how money flows. The scope of responsibility for a CIO has broadened and the role of the CIO is much more integrated with the business than ever before. According to Young, what the CIO does should equate to a blend of technology and business officer, helping to drive the results of organization.

  • Get in touch with customers - As a CIO, to be deeply in touch with your customers means understanding what the value proposition is for them - knowing what they expect and then figuring out how to differentiate yourself. For Young, in the higher education space, that means delivering a seamless experience, which is highly enabled by technology. Young says, "If you don't have a full understanding of the customer experience and how financials work you will not be contributing as effectively as you should be." A recent wired article goes one step further to say that CIO's need to say goodbye to CIO and say hello to Chief Customer Officer.
  • Become deeply engaged with business partners - Young spends a lot of time with her business partners in the athletic and dining areas of the University - two key areas which contribute to differentiating the undergraduate experience. Forget a 360 degree view, as a "CIO Plus" Young takes it a step further and says you need to take a 460 degree view of your organization in order to be effective in role of CIO.
  • Create an "IT Organization Plus" - It makes sense that if you are going to be a "CIO Plus", you need to have an "IT Organization Plus". The IT team at UNH is connected with customers and they use the UNH IT portfolio as a lab for their students and run several projects each year with a student team in the computer science department. This gives the students real-life experience in production environments while offering the IT team an in-depth understanding of what's important to the students and insight into how they operate in their daily life. Young says that you can really make a difference as a CIO and help to create an "IT Organization Plus" by creating opportunities for your team to come out of the cubicle and have meaningful experiences directly with the customers.
  • Be open to innovation - In her blog article, "Innovation is the New Operation", Young says, "Being open to innovation may mean being a tad systematic (but don't obsess on the process)." She says that CIOs need a bigger table for the table stakes, so" pull up another chair and make room for innovation alongside such staples as operational reliability, fiscal savvy, and on-time projects." In other words, make innovation part of the operation.
  • Befriend the best and brightest - On the topic of "shadow IT", Young agrees that it's a good thing as it provides an opportunity for IT to understand how they can bolster their services, but there needs to be some alignment. Her team is working hard to have a stronger relationship with other departments and aside from the practical benefits of providing enhanced security she recognizes that many of the people in other departments tend to be closer to the customer and there is a lot to be learned from them. Operating under the theory of "the more bright minds the better", Young promotes the value in aligning and becoming friends with resources that are not in her direct control and by doing so she has been able to improve the customer experience and even help make a positive impact on the bottom line with OpEx by eliminating redundancies.
  • Leverage new technology - The demands on the network are always increasing but thanks to such a greater degree of automation with technologies like the Cloud, CIOs have been able to shift energy to being better and stronger partners with the business. As a result, UNH is increasingly defaulting to the Cloud when possible to deploy new technologies and they find that all their digital media is done more effectively and with better resiliency in the Cloud. However, when it comes to the legacy apps there are some hurdles with moving into the Cloud. Her advice to legacy vendors when they talk about their offerings in the cloud space is for them to help CIOs understand what the path way is to get from where they are today to where they want to go tomorrow. CIOs are looking for business partners not just vendors.
  • Get on the BYOD bandwagon - As a CIO of the largest University in the state of NH, with 15,000 students, Young arguably has some of the most connected customers in the world with the average student in higher education having an average of four connected devices. With mobile traffic on the rise verses regular internet traffic according to the 2013 Internet Trends report by Mary Meeker, BYOD adoption will also need to gain speed. According to Meeker, mobile now accounts for 15 percent of total global internet traffic, and is likely to maintain a trajectory of 1.5x growth year-over-year. For Young, BYOD was a reality early on (even before it was called BYOD) so she had the advantage of already having had to contend with it. She refers to the number of devices, the number of apps on those devices and the increasing use of rich media (especially video) of those apps as a "triple threat". To combat the BYOD triple threat, CIOs need to have a pretty aggressive strategy in terms of bandwidth, security and network availability.
  • Be Social - As one of the most social CIOs, Young (@unhcio) regularly blogs and is a daily user of Twitter. At first she did it because it was new and cool and she enjoyed connecting with people, but over time she made the connection that the accelerated speed of connecting with people and organizations that social media enables could translate into helping her to accelerate her contribution as a CIO. Young primarily uses Twitter and LinkedIn and she adds this advice to vendors who want to get in touch with CIOs: "If a CIO is active in social media, find a way to engage them in their social media network." The days of cold calling and canned emails are gone. Her advice to other CIOs regarding social media: "Anyone not participating in social media needs to think really hard about why not doing it. Social media will make your life easier by breaking down the barriers to communication."
  • Evaluate new technology against the business model - When it comes to new technology such as MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses), Young sees it as just another channel of delivering education and as with anything CIOs need to ask themselves who are the customers and how do they want to receive the product and then figure out a way to fit that into the business model. She believes that more and more of education across the board, from K-12 to higher education, is already online and that it will only increase. It's a matter of figuring out how you are going to do it, when you are going to do it and how you are going to monetize it. Organizations run into trouble when they haven't thought about the business model enough. Young was excited to announce that UNH will be offering a Massive Open Course for Kids (MOCK) online this summer about Harry Potter.
  • We recently survey over 200 higher education institutions around the globe regarding adoption of massive open online courses and shared the results in this inforgraphic.

    You can watch the full interview with Joanna Young here. Please join me and Michael Krigsman every Friday at 4PM EDT on CXOTalk, as we connect with thought leaders and innovative executives who are pushing the boundaries within their companies and their fields.