Max Hopper. Alfred Zipf. Not exactly household names, but these were the men who ushered business into the modern age. They were the first CIOs.

Back in the 1970s, companies were so proud of their glistening, 20-ton computers that they put them in glass-enclosed rooms for easy viewing, earning the early data centers the term “glass houses”. Nowadays, you’re more likely to find central IT buried in a dark, windowless room, overfilling with spare parts — an apocalyptic parking lot. Despite the relocation, CIOs have never faced more scrutiny and pressure to customize, integrate, deploy, and support hundreds of applications while meeting the toughest standards of auditability, up time, security, usability and cost reduction.

No wonder the average CIO tenure is five years, and one in four is fired for poor performance. The walls may no longer be glass, but it seems everyone is still watching — waiting to see an IT executive fail.

In our recent publication, CIO Strategies for Success, we reveal the methods of the most successful technology executives, beginning with a review of the most vexing problem areas. Here’s a preview:

  • Disconnect between business managers and IT — A significant source of frustration is misaligned milestone timelines and inconsistent definitions of ROI. Systems that adapt in real-time and are designed for quick deployment can help bridge these gaps but, at the end of the day, effective communication and multi-dimensional leadership will make the biggest impact.
  • Major application failure — When a major application fails, the IT department takes the blame, even if the cause is some unanticipated circumstance, such as an exceptionally high load. Systems must therefore be scalable to several multiples of the anticipated loads and fully redundant.
  • Compliance failure — Since the advent of Sarbanes-Oxley, it’s not enough to implement appropriate procedures; it must be possible to show an auditor how they were followed in all instances. This requires software that incorporates compliance at the core, not bolted-on functionality. The goal should be to have systems that are fully audit-ready because all actions are tracked and recorded.
  • Exceeding deadlines and budget — The key to eliminating this most common failure is the removal of unknowns. While it may not be possible to nail down every detail of a large deployment in advance, it is possible to structure spec development and implementation milestones so that they are uncovered and resolved before resources are committed.

Read more CIO strategies for success, including choosing the right strategies, resources, and software in: