New job as CIO - Tips for the first 100 days


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The first 100 days as CIO

Why the first 100 days are so important

As a CIO, Chief Information Officer, you operate at the intersection of budgets and realities, often having to reconcile completely conflicting goals and different priorities - while still being an excellent team player, shaping an organization's information and data security with modern people management on the way to a competitive future. The first 100 days in your new job are crucial to your role as a successful CIO, especially if you are starting out in an organization where (for whatever reason) there is a lot of dissatisfaction with IT.

First impressions count - also and especially in a new job. Sending the right signals, recognizing and avoiding faux pas, and building up networks: as a manager, you will have new expectations pelting down on you in the first few weeks. From your superiors to your team, all employees have very specific ideas about how you should fulfill your new role as CIO. With targeted preparation for the first 100 days - which generally go hand in hand with a certain "puppy protection" - you can master the balancing act between listening and learning on the one hand and actively shaping your environment on the other. Always keep one thing in mind: You are required to show respect for existing structures and processes while at the same time being active and reshaping them.

Tyrant or buddy type?

The first 100 days in a new company will determine how you are perceived as a manager and how your further path in this position will be shaped. You play a decisive role in determining the working culture in your immediate environment and lay important foundations for the motivation of your teams. In the comparatively short time of just a few weeks, it will be decided whether you are seen as a difficult supervisor or more of a buddy type - and also whether you appear competent or out of your depth. The big challenge here: Attributes that you have "earned" in the first few days in your new job or that have been bestowed on you by your colleagues will accompany you in your position for the rest of the time. As a CIO, you won't be able to get rid of the ghosts that called you.

In all experience, CIOs who take over the position for the first time tend to want to prove to everyone right at the start that the company has put its faith in a true troubleshooter who will do everything better than their predecessors with a strong hands-on mentality. However, Timothy Lawless of Forrester Research has clearly shown in his study "A CIO's Guide to their first 100 days" that this strategy will not lead to the desired long-term success. Instead, the first 100 days as CIO should be spent building relationships within the company, understanding the business model and identifying the strategic direction. To ensure that this is a complete success, it is advisable to divide the job entry into three phases.

The three phases of starting a job as a CIO

Claus Henninger, a German journalist for the FAZ, once said, "Anyone who takes on new tasks inadequately prepared mentally runs into incalculable risks. The mind must float above the waters, so to speak, if creation is to succeed - and beforehand." Comprehensive preparation is essential for the responsible position of a CIO. After all, you bear 100 percent of the responsibility in your new job. Surprises of all kinds should therefore be avoided at all costs and in the best possible way. To do this successfully, you should plan your job entry in terms of your "future creation". To do this, divide the 100 days into three phases:

  • Phase 1: Understanding - 20 days
  • Phase 2: Inventory - 60 days
  • Phase 3: Transformation - 20 days

Even before your first day on the job, your mental preparation begins: deal intensively with your new employer, what is the exact business model, which markets are served, are there unique selling points and are competitive advantages recognizable? What experience does the company have with IT solutions and services? A lot of information can be researched in advance. Go through the application situation again, what expectations were linked to you in your new function.

Define your medium-term goals for the next one to three years, outline the possible requirements in your new role and determine how and with what you would like to achieve your goals. This little roadmap will serve to orient you as a CIO in your first 100 days as a CIO represent. And then comes the first day of work ...

Phase 1: Understanding

The first 20 days in your job as CIO are all about understanding procedures and processes within the company and especially within your IT department. Don't immediately be the "game changer" who wants maximum change and impact from the start. The picture you have of the company may still be incomplete. Do ad hoc decisions at this stage align with your vision and roadmap in the long term? Focus on consolidating your overview to get a complete picture.

Definitely recommended here is a personal visit to the relevant business units, possibly supplemented by a survey of employees. In this way, you can find out "through the official channels" exactly what your colleagues expect from IT, where improvements need to be made, and also which people are hiding important interfaces to other areas of the company. One key to success is good cooperation with your management colleagues.

After all, the better you understand your new company and IT, the more targeted your future actions will be. The time you devote to your own team at the beginning is profitable and never underestimate the influence and possibly lasting impact of your predecessor!

Phase 2: Inventory

As a newcomer to the company, you have a great advantage: you can take a realistic look at the current state of your department completely unencumbered. Use your time for an overview of existing potentials and risks and carry out an inventory. The creation of a SWOT analysis for your area of responsibility is also very helpful. How is the structure and process of IT organized? Which projects are currently running and which projects are planned for the near future? How are the internal and external IT systems organized as a whole, and which service providers does your company work with? It is also essential to take stock of the qualifications of your employees and to gain an insight into how the individual departments work together. Techniques such as vision mapping or affinity diagrams support you in this phase in sorting your findings clearly and visually. Be sure to collect your findings in a list, which should be as meaningful as possible at the end of phase 2. This is because you will use the inventory you have gained to derive important transformation processes in the next phase.

Phase 3: Transformation

The last 20 days of your onboarding phase as CIO should be spent demonstrating to your team that you have comprehensively received, fully understood and reliably correctly interpreted the corporate information you have gained. Your goal in the transformation phase is to take a strategically smart approach to the tasks at hand. The transformation plan derived from the inventory should include optimization initiatives, which you divide into high-priority and medium-priority initiatives. High priority is given to initiatives that immediately lead to a functional, qualitative or cost-reducing increase in value. Low priority initiatives are those that either lack urgency or whose benefits have not yet been clearly identified.


The first days in a new job are not easy - this is also and especially true for IT positions with management responsibility. With careful preparation for the new area of responsibility and strategic, planned use of the first 100 days, CIOs not only gain an optimal overview of the position, but also avoid mistakes that have a lasting impact on the new position.

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