I hate to admit it, but I’ve seen too many CIOs get fired over the years.
I also dislike putting this in writing, but I have in most cases also have seen the warning signs in advance. Sometimes they were clients, sometimes they weren’t. And sometimes they listened to my advice, while other times they didn’t. Most could have avoided their fates had they followed some simple best practices.
After working and speaking with hundreds of CIOs across the world at various points throughout my career, I’ve picked up on the common warning signs in advance. There are some patterns and bad habits that CIOs seem to fall into prior to the lowering of the boom. Even executives, managers, and project team members that aren’t CIOs should be aware of these pitfalls.
Here are a few of the potentially career-ending actions, decisions, and dead-end situations to be aware of in order to preserve your job security:
1. You’ve been hired to single-handedly make the transformation successful
Many companies have the urge to go find “the guy” (or gal) that can make it all happen for them: the person with an implementation or two under their belts and the battle wounds to show for it. That person that can take away all the pain and heartburn that so many other companies experienced during their transformations. Beware if you’re in this position, because you’ll need a lot more than your own sheer strength and experience to make the initiative successful. Instead, you will need the support of your entire executive team, a strong project team, and cooperative stakeholders and outside consultants. Don’t be led to believe that you can do it all by yourself.
2. You are treating your transformation initiative as “just an ERP project”
One of the biggest red flags we see is when companies treat their initiatives as “simple” ERP software projects. Sure, it’s important not to over-complicate or over-engineer things. But accept the fact that these are major undertakings rather than pretending that you can somehow make them simpler or easier than is possible. It will be very tempting to fall into this trap – especially when budgets and resources are tight – but it’s important to stay strong and lead with the tailwinds of reality and acceptance at your back.
3. You are making decisions that are increasing project cost and risk
This is perhaps the toughest one on the list. There is a multitude of decisions that may seem innocuous enough: you cut organizational change to keep the costs down, gloss over business process management in hopes that the software will drive new business processes for you, and do other things that sound good on paper. In reality, decisions like these will actually increase your time and cost, even though they may make perfect sense in theory. Understanding the tradeoff between long- and short-term costs is extremely important and often misunderstood by CIOs.
4. You are reining in your ERP or digital transformation project in the wrong places
Don’t get me wrong: it is important to implement strong project governance and controls so your transformation doesn’t go off the rails. But too often, I see organizations try to cut in the wrong places. For example, they cut back on consultants because their rates are higher than that of internal resources, even though that typically will drive up overall costs because the internal team doesn’t have the same capabilities. Or they cut organizational change management because they’re over budget. (Spoiler alert: your actual costs will almost certainly clock in higher without change management than with it.) If you’re going to cut anything, trim in non-essential areas like customization, superfluous modules or licenses that you’re not actually going to use, or inflated maintenance agreements. Independent ERP consultants can help make sure you’re effectively containing costs in the right areas.
5. You are having a go at it alone
You may think it’s going to be easy or that you can handle the job yourself, but this may be the biggest mistake you can make. Don’t be afraid to enlist the help of independent and objective experts who can make your initiative more successful.
Your fate doesn’t need to be left to chance or external forces. Watch for and avoid these five warning signs – your career may depend on it.