CIO Coach Reflections

By: Gary Davenport

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it is living the life of a CIO.

What advice do you give to a new CIO? Being a CIO can be a wonderful career experience. However, it is not for the faint of heart nor the weak in spirit. There will undoubtedly be the opportunities for both great triumphs and unfortunate setbacks along the way. The key from my personal experience and perspective is to maintain focus on the end goals and a belief in your own abilities to achieve positive outcomes despite whatever obstacles that may be encountered along the way.

Of course, all CIOs will face a number of challenges. I would summarize the key overarching ones as never enough time, never enough financial resources, never enough talent and sometimes inconsistent senior executive support. Anyone of these challenges in and of themselves can be quite difficult to overcome, but when there are multiple of these conditions at play in a situation, then the resulting scenarios can be overwhelming. This will stretch any CIO’s business, technology and leadership skills.

Given the torrid pace of change and the unending need to redefine the status quo, CIOs are at the heart of the move to the digital economy and the unfolding future. In essence, today’s CIOs will find themselves trying to meet a multitude of these demands and expectations. While there is no singular right approach and style to being a CIO, experience has taught us some valuable lessons about how best to manage for success.

These lessons include realizing that strategy definition always comes first, that relationships do matter, that you need to make it work with your CEO, that you need to get the most out of your supplier partnerships, that you better be clear on the communication of your leadership beliefs, that you should strive to build core organizational capabilities, that you manage the financial resources well, that you position yourself and your team to be recognized as award winners and that you make sure you operate as a “new CIO” as opposed to being one that is stuck in the past.

None of these lessons will guarantee ultimate success for a CIO. However, they do represent a series of best practices that have stood the test of time and contributed to overall CIO longevity. In this regard, I have written a series of related blogs and have consolidated them to form an overall summary for sharing for individual CIOs and for the CIO profession at large.

It is indeed an exciting time to be a CIO. Don’t waste the opportunity.


Gary Davenport

Gary Davenport, CIO Mentor and Board Member

Gary has extensive experience as a CIO within a variety of industries running large scale IT operations and delivering many complex digital business transformation initiatives. He has served on numerous CIO councils and not-for-profit Board of Directors and is currently the Past President of the CIO Association of Canada (CIOCAN), a Board member for the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC), a Board Advisor for the Canadian Channel Chiefs Council (C4) and the Chair of the Program Advisory Council for the Ted Rogers’ School of Business Information Technology Management program. Gary also provides advisory and CIO services as a management consultant.

When not doing CIO related activities, Gary enjoys traveling, fishing, playing golf and keeping up with his four grandchildren.