This week I’ve been able to try out the #CIOPriorities cards in two scenarios, and so here are some reflections on the games that were played and how it seemed to go down with participants.

Exploring the role of the CIO

The first event on Wednesday was where I was invited to take part in a workshop organised by Advanced Workplace Associates. The session was designed to explore the interact and collaboration needed by, in particular, HR, Facilities and IT for modern workplaces to come together, and AWA’s Andrew Mawson had asked me along to run a slot to help the participants understand where IT currently is at in its thinking.

After an initial game where I got the participants to use visual metaphors to describe where they saw the role of the CIO today, and where they thought it should be (below)

I then split the group of about 20, predominantly facilities, people into three groups, and gave each group a set of the cards, and a flipchart sheet with three segments drawn, one labelled “HR”, another “IT and the third “FM”. There was also a circle in the middle which represented all three functions. The aim of the game was, as a group, to deal the cards out and then take turns to place a priority card onto the sheet to represent where the priority should sit: with IT alone, with one of the other groups alone, or at one of the intersections. As a result we got:

Some observations:

  • this was definitely a more engaged exercise than if I’d merely stood up and given a presentation – feedback that I’ve seen so far was positive.
  • the cards got most people talking
  • a few people wanted to quickly lay down all of their cards without conversation – stronger guidance in the “rules” needs to make it clear one at a time, and with reasons stated (to give space for debate)
  • a few of the cards prompted questions, but I’d framed up front saying that if you simply didn’t understand the phrase on the card there was a strong possibility that it was a purely IT thing
  • one of the points of the cards is to illustrate the potential breadth of the CIO role, and how context is then important – that does leave the game to an extent without a nice, tidy conclusion, but that’s part of the lesson to learn: there is no such thing as a typical CIO these days.
  • one group (bottom in the pictures) decided they wanted another category of “The Business” – one of the nice things about making up the rules of a game as you go along is that that is perfectly fine!
  • one participant noted that it was significant that none of the cards had a priority of “Working more closely with other business support functions”. That’s a reflection of the absence of that from most IT organisations, rather than simply an omission in the cards. It’s not something I really hear that often from CIOs.

Marketing to the CIO

On Thursday I spent the day with the client that was the catalyst for creating #CIOPriorities – a tech startup that wants to get better at engaging with senior IT stakeholders.

I won’t share pictures of this as that is confidential to the client, but I can talk through the process and some observations…

Again I started by using the visual metaphor cards – in this case asking participants to pick two photos (the full set is available for download here, by the way) that described facets of the CIO. Encouragingly through this the group identified one of the central tensions in modern day technology management – keeping the legacy lights on whilst delivering new things and finding time to innovate.

We then turned to the cards; this time we dealt the cards and then asked participants in turn to lay a card into one of four quadrants: Strength (ie their product plays directly to help the specific CIO Priority); Weakness (the product doesn’t help with the priority); Opportunity (something that the client could talk about with credibility but not related to their product) and finally Threat (the client’s products are directly against the CIO Priority).

Discussion and debate and movement of each card happened, and eventually we allocated all 50. At that point we focused on the Opportunity cards, to then plan next steps for generating content and engagement strategies.

Some observations:

  • Careful with language. “Opportunity” to a sales person has a very distinct meaning and so after a while we changed that quadrant to “Things we can talk about”
  • Similarly, the “Weaknesses” was too negative. It wasn’t a weakness of the product that it didn’t fulfil a particular priority in the same way that it isn’t a weakness of custard that it can’t be used to power a smartphone. We relabelled to “Meh”, which was much clearer.
  • Getting sales people to not think in terms of features and benefits is hard. Getting them to think in terms of customer not product is hard. Getting them to think in terms of customer not competitors is hard. The cards helped in all three cases, but still I needed to shepherd people on occasion.
  • The game really engaged. They played for over two hours. There was a lot of thinking going on in the room.

Experiments continue. In the next couple of weeks I hope to be able to run exercises with a couple of CIOs using the cards.

One thought on “#CIOPriorities Field notes

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