Stepping into a new organization, chief information officers have to decide whether to upend internal technology operations or continue with the status quo.
CIOs on average stay in their role for no more than five years, and each new position presents an opportunity to try something new with technology and cherry pick what processes predecessors installed while incorporating a new approach.
How a CIO chooses to take on new role depends on the environment. In legacy settings, a transformational CIO is lucrative for long-term business success. But in other organizations, with a robust technology stack and digital environments, reinventing the internal technology landscape would prove wasteful.
In the first year on the job for CIOs, one of the key areas of focus is fully understanding and becoming immersed in the environment.
Mike Kelly, CIO at Red Hat, took on his role in August 2016 after having served as a CIO for a long time in organizations like McKesson U.S. Pharmaceutical. But he did not have a background working for a tech company.
Kelly's first year was dedicated to understanding "the values, culture and strategy" of Red Hat in order to find ways he could contribute in a unique way, respecting the open source culture the company is founded on.
"I think it's very easy for someone to come into a new job and fall prey to, 'well I am just going to run the playbook I've always run that's got me successful to this point,' " said Kelly, in an interview with CIO Dive. "I try to be a different beast to that."
Rather than taking rapid steps to change the organization, Kelly was able to discover areas he could impact that would be in line with the strategy and the culture of the company.
"I think that that curiosity and respect to how the company got to where it is and to how I can be additive to take it where it wants to go, that's something I was just paying super careful attention to," said Kelly.
The 4 principles
One of the first changes Kelly put in place when he joined Red Hat was to install a solid framework to guide the technology organization.
The four principles were designed to help tech organize its work and focus its priorities:
Operational excellence: Being brilliant at the basics is important because "we believe that doing the basic caretaking of an IT organization is super, super important," Kelly said. "It's equally as important as being super innovative because you can't do one without the other."
High performance teamwork: Keeping a focus on individuals allows for a strong commitment to teamwork across Red Hat and IT operations.
Continuous improvement and remaining transparent and accountable for everything.
Open source thinking: "We try to literally have open source products in the portfolio," Kelly said. "We try to make sure that when we make decisions they're open and understood and collaborative in nature."
But Kelly did not design IT's guiding principles in a vacuum. Instead, he took time to take stock of Red Hat's environment and then opened up the conversation on Red Hat's internal collaboration platform, posing the question, "what are we here to do and how are we going to do it?"
"Everyone had a chance to provide input," Kelly said. It was a solid exercise, particularly because "everyone feels ownership" of the established principles.