The CIO’s leadership role continues to elevate in high-performing firms. Many CIOs now have a dual role of chief digital and innovation officer, while some are expanding into the role of COO. In other words, the “technology monkey” is on the entire C-suite. Where can you leverage new opportunities? The answer generally is “everywhere,” yet focus is imperative.
With these expanding leadership roles comes the need for the rapid development of team members, improved marketing and communications, project management, and increased business savvy. All these areas go beyond technical skills. Over 15 years ago, I developed the CIO Report Card with the following seven skill areas:
- Human resources;
- Marketing & communications;
- Project management; and,
- Business savvy.
Over the past few years, these skills have only grown exponentially in importance. Current trends around the employee and client experiences, innovation, revenue replacement, remote workforce, packaging and pricing (to name a few) all fit in one or more of these skill areas.
How do you evaluate your professional technology staff? Who is responsible for that evaluation, and how often do evaluations occur? While these are basic human resource questions, many firms do not have fair and equitable systems to ensure anticipated results and provide a professional career path for internal technology professionals.
Simply using the tools available to evaluate accounting professionals is not enough. Additionally, we recommend multiple tools and intentional communication with these professionals. There are four basic requirements of any performance evaluation system:
1. Simple and easy to understand;
3. Intentional communications; and,
4. The employee is responsible/accountable.
The evaluation criteria should be consistent with the balanced scorecard approach. The four primary areas you should evaluate your IT personnel on are:
- Financial: Managing to a strategic technology plan and budget.
- Learning/training: Continued growth in skills and the development of others.
- Standards, policies and procedures: Adoption of standards and documentation of operating policies and procedures.
- Customer satisfaction: The customer is the end user.
The other evaluation should focus on how the person adds value to the firm. While value may be subjective to some, there are three basic characteristics in adding value (internal or external). They are:
- Leadership: Provides direction.
- Relationships: Provides confidence.
- Creativity: Provides new capabilities.
Evaluation criteria alone are not enough. Many firms attempt to start the evaluation process without a foundation. A written strategic plan built upon a clear vision, mission, core values and prioritized strategic objectives will dramatically increase the chance of success.
Getting the right person in the right job is the key. Job descriptions will significantly increase the employee’s success and the firm’s satisfaction, but defining the position without a strategic game plan is difficult. This is especially true in jobs that were previously not front-stage production jobs. Backstage jobs require thought and planning and must directly align with the firm’s strategic objectives.
With this foundation (vision, strategic plan and job description) in place, the evaluation is much easier, and the entire process is far more objective. It also allows professionals to focus on their strengths and build unique-ability teams. You should evaluate technology personnel based on their contribution to the firm’s strategic IT plan (which integrates with its strategic plan). We recommend a one-page laminated IT plan that is easily understood and communicated to all employees and stakeholders. Without these basic building blocks, focusing limited resources on priority objectives is difficult.
Too often, IT departments get placed into the role of firefighters rather than builders of strategic initiatives. Thus, firm leaders view them as “overhead” rather than strategic assets. It is very difficult for IT personnel to meet expectations if those expectations are not defined and documented in advance. I designed the following 20 criteria in four main categories for use in evaluating IT personnel on an annual basis. They’re one of three primary tools we recommend, including a strategic plan and job description. The other tools are a 90-day personal game plan and a quarterly accountability review. Focusing on accomplishments builds confidence, which is necessary for learning and growth.
Score IT employees on each of the 20 criteria on a scale of Poor to Excellent.
1. Operates within the strategic IT plan and budget.
2. Completes projects on a timely basis.
3. Schedules and plans work (timely, accurate).
4. Multitasks appropriately.
5. Delegates appropriately.
6. Accomplishes personal learning plan.
7. Documents teachable point of view.
8. Trains and assists others.
9. Provides leadership.
10. Creates an environment of confidence in others.
11. Understands the basics of the firm’s business.
12. Provides “creativity” to solving firm problems.
13. Documents systems and processes.
14. Is a team player.
15. Suggests and articulates problem-solving solutions.
16. Responds to “end user” needs.
17. Displays a positive attitude — enthusiasm.
18. Maintains a professional appearance.
19. Punctuality — shows up on time.
20. Commits to quality.
Human resource management requires time and is generally not the unique ability of most accountants and technology professionals. Some prefer to work alone rather than manage people. Determine who the leaders and managers are in your firm and provide them access to the resources to create the environment for success.
You will find that with the right resources, the time requirements are insignificant while the results are significant. Recent firm metrics show that most firms are 50% chargeable, so don’t say your firm is too busy to ignore the management of an important resource (your IT team).
Management of personnel through improved planning, documentation of expectations, and after-action reviews appears to be a good use of some of this nonchargeable time. Training and learning are the other areas that will contribute the most to profitability and the attraction and retention of quality personnel and clients. Think — plan — grow!