CIO Manifesto or Strategic Plan: Communicating Intentions and Philosphy

composition notebook titled CIO ManifestoMore CIO’s should develop a CIO manifesto instead of, or as a supplement to, an IT strategic plan to communicate their intentions and philosophy. By developing a CIO manifesto as an executive summary of your intentions for supporting the business strategy you will convey more useful information with less effort than most CIO’s do in a typical strategic plan. Not to mention, by having your own manifesto it will make you a little edgy as long as you don’t retreat to a cabin in Montana to write it.

The intended purpose of a strategic plan is to be a communication tool on the way forward for IT based on business strategy. Unfortunately, the typical strategic plan is merely a list of tactical projects for infrastructure lifecycle refresh and vendor upgrades for the coming period. Wireless upgrade here, iPads there, ERP projects X-Y-Z, and LMS initiatives. This is why the business yawns at your strategic vision and why the business resists giving the chief information officer a more strategic role in the business.

A CIO manifesto on the other hand would set forth the CIO’s current thinking on IT services, the role of IT in the organization and the underlying philosophy guiding technology decision making. Like any manifesto, the CIO manifesto would be your public declaration of your intentions supported by the reasoning and motives behind them.

A CIO manifesto would do what a strategic plan so often fails to do which is to provide a concise executive summary of the overall philosophy for technology and IT services within the organization. The manifesto would establish the vision for the future without using a mission statement and vision statement that say nothing.

Your manifesto should be concise and just long enough to do the job. The manifesto should, in clear and unambiguous terms, express the CIO’s intentions and philosophy on:

  • IT governance (decision making) for shared resources
  • Organizational model – centralized, federated or decentralized
  • Central IT services – service catalog and cost of quality
  • Asset ownership – owning versus not owning
  • Financing asset acquisition – purchase versus renting/leasing (CapEx -OpEx)
  • Staffing model – role of supplemental labor and outsourcing
  • Risk management – cost of compliance and service vs security
  • Enterprise standards – open source, enterprise suites, best of breed
  • Consumerization of IT – BYOPC, personal cloud services

Of course your manifesto will focus on issues and challenges specific to your organization. Just be sure to address the big picture philosophy that guides IT decision making and strategy. In a traditional strategic plan you might find these identified as fundamental tenants, standards, or possibly core values.

Remember the point of any manifesto is to serve as a communication tool for your intentions on the current and foreseeable decisions related to technology. The value of your manifesto can be strengthened by including enough information so that department heads can do scenario planning now that they are armed with the big picture for IT.

As long as you can keep your manifesto concise, consider offering your own scenario planning on some key IT decisions to help communicate how a decision might go as conditions change and the variables become more clear.

In order to avoid being misunderstood here, let me say there is nothing stopping you from having a CIO manifesto and a strategic plan. In fact I would encourage it. The manifesto could serve as the introduction to your strategic plan by laying the foundation for the strategic vision for IT. In this way the manifesto offers a distillation of your strategic analysis of the current business strategy and your SWOT analysis for IT’s role in supporting the business strategy.

In the end, the CIO manifesto should articulate in plain English your intentions of IT and the philosophy and rationale behind those intentions. Unlike a strategic plan, this is something the CIO should do alone as an expression of your vision for IT.

Footnote: You can find an interesting assortment of manifestos including some choice technology manifestos from the Wikipedia manifesto page.

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