Beware the change agent

Todd McGregor, managing director, Forrester Middle East, ponders on the implications of the CIO’s new role as change agent - a role once only dreamed of.

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By  Todd McGregor Published  April 2, 2006

|~|McGregor,-Todd---Forrester2.gif|~|Todd McGregor, managing director, Forrester Middle East.|~|I am afraid it may be a gross overestimation to refer to a new CIO as a 'change agent'. However, in the last three months I have heard this terminology used in several leading companies in the region to explain the role of the new CIO. It is a role most CIOs I know only dream of. This begs the questions: If the new CIO is the 'change agent' then what was the previous CIO, and what is more, what exactly will be changing?

There will in fact be lots of changes as a result of the new CIO taking his or her post within an organisation - particularly in private enterprise. Some of these are good and some are bad, depending on which side of the fence you sit.

For a vendor about to sign a deal with the previous CIO, there is a very strong chance the 'Change Agent' will change his mind about choosing the products or even the relationship with the organisation. CIOs, like most professionals in the IT industry, tend to gravitate towards their own experience so it stands to reason that incumbent vendor is at risk.

If you are a line report of the previous CIO then the 'change agent' may be preparing to make some executive decisions about your future. It is not uncommon for trusted staff to migrate with management then the deal (and in turn your fate) can be sealed before the announcement of the new CIO has even been made.

Next, every new management appointment will need to be seen to be taking steps to improve the organisation. This often manifests itself in decisions and potentially lots of them, quickly. The first 90 days is often the mark of the new manager so don't expect too much feet under the desk time before decisions start flying. Even if it is just one or two, expect them to be significant.

Somehow, I don't think that when the CFO or CEO made the statement that the new CIO was going be a change agent that these types of changes are what they really had in mind.

On the positive side however, the mere fact that the CXO is making such announcements potentially augers well for the incoming CIO. If in fact they have been recruited to take the organisation on a path that they haven't travelled before or to use technology as the vehicle for rapid change then these are jobs that CIOs dream of. If you are a vendor then you want to be there in step with the new CIO. Equally if you are a line report of the new CIO then this is a chance of a lifetime.

Unfortunately I have seen too much of the former and not enough of the latter. However, as the eternal optimist I hold high hopes for the next 'change agent' who is going to be announced.

If you are a vendor, entrenched or not, then do your homework about your new CIO as you may well be starting an entirely new sales cycle with a new set of value propositions. See where he or she worked before and find out what the major projects were and who the technology and service providers were.

And finally, for the outgoing CIO's line reports, wholesale changes are rare, particularly in this region and especially in government. But it always pays to keep the CV updated as you could be ready to take the step up to be the next change agent!

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