You only get one chance to make a first impression and the first 30 days will be critical in shaping the ensuing six months. For the majority of new CIOs, the new role comes with clear expectations – a key area of pain to resolve or corporate objective to meet.

Yet in reality, even ascertaining the extent and state of the IT infrastructure can be difficult. The IT team can be territorial and wary of change. And with most IT departments lacking essential documentation, there is no single source of trusted information.

So how can the CIO gain insight into the extent of the IT infrastructure, flag up potential risks and identify opportunities for change and improvement? And critically, how can he attain and retain board level respect for innovation and strategic change? Here’s how CIOs can really make a difference in 30 days:

Taking Control

CIOs are being tasked with far more than ensuring the IT infrastructure runs smoothly – from enabling essential strategic change to reducing costs and supporting new digital agendas. According to the 2013 edition of the CIO100 more than half report directly to the CEO, while nearly 80% sit on a leadership board.

However, with growing IT literacy at board level, other Directors are imposing control over IT budgets – CIOs risk losing strategic input, with new roles including Chief Digital Officer and Head of Innovation gaining the plaudits. So how can a new CIO not only impose control over the data infrastructure but also enable vital digital transformation and deliver quantifiable corporate value? How can a CIO gain rapid credibility and a strong hold on the business?

The first month for any new CIO is typically crammed with departmental meetings designed to provide an overview of business needs and strategic direction. The result is that the individual gains an excellent grasp of the corporate requirements – but what about the underlying IT infrastructure?

Constrained by poor documentation and a diffident IT team waiting to be won over, gaining understanding of the current infrastructure and its limitations can be extremely difficult.

Furthermore, a new CIO will initially be deluged with opinions on the state of IT – both informed and ill-informed, as well as different ideas as to the required levels of IT investment. Yet how can any CIO confidently agree to deliver the required innovation with no visibility of what is in place today; no insight into the cost base; and no confidence in the resilience of the current infrastructure?

How can he determine the right recommendations and ascertain how much additional commitment is required from stakeholders to attain the necessary budget? And, critically, how can he assess whether the key area of business pain or essential corporate investment that has been flagged by the business really should be the priority development?

Essential Insight

What are the options? To undertake face to face interviews with each member of the IT team; to try to undertake in depth analysis of past IT spend based on the inadequate information within the finance system; or attempt to interpret dated and inaccurate IT documentation? None of these options will provide the accurate, detailed information required. It would take at least a year to get to grips with the infrastructure; and that is without taking into account on-going change.

The reality is that a CIO simply does not have time to decipher legacy information and legacy decisions in this way. The pressure is on to make a difference, deliver improvements and initiate new projects within weeks, not years.

An alternative is to commission an extensive IT audit. This process – which typically takes 12 to 20 days depending on the size of organisation – not only includes a complete review of the infrastructure, from the hardware, software and comms to back-up process and disaster recovery plans, but delivers complete documentation of all systems.

Invaluable Insight

This detailed, accurate, up to date information provides the new CIO with the facts required to make immediate decisions. It provides a platform upon which to base critical conversations with managers – and a clear way of comparing IT staff perception with the infrastructure reality. Critically, the audit will highlight any issues within the infrastructure that represent immediate business risk, enabling the CIO to rapidly gain buy in from stakeholders to key investment requirements.

Indeed, the results of an audit can be extraordinary – such as the accountancy practice that discovered the link between the business and the data backup provider had been broken for over seven months. The company was not only wasting the £80,000 annual spend on data backup but creating a situation where, should the worst occur, the business could only recover back to its data position seven months earlier.

What business could survive that eventuality? A similar situation affected a company that relied on a daily collection of backup tapes; but since no one knew when the driver was arriving for collection, the tapes were never provided. The driver left empty handed day after day.

Other instances include the £50,000 per annum leased line still in place to an office that had been closed for over a year; and the business that had primary and failover connections to every office, including the smallest, except its most critical facility.

Platform For Innovation

Any new CIO wants to gain board level credibility and investment commitment fast. Combining this detailed audit information, which includes a list of top priority developments, with the business direction gained from strategic meetings, can arm a new CIO with the key insight required by the end of the first 30 days in the job.

From the quality of the infrastructure to the skills levels and motivation of the staff and the true state of the company’s disaster recovery and business continuity position, the CIO now has the facts to hand upon which essential capex and opex discussions with the CEO and FD can now be based.

By addressing the highlighted key problem areas – either internally or via an external resource – the CIO can minimise operational risk quickly and confidently assess the viability of the organisation’s strategic demands. Critically, within three months, the CIO is up and running. He is delivering quantifiable benefit and demonstrating the value of IT to the business and, essentially, ensuring he retains control over the fast expanding digital IT estate. Making a change within 30 days really is possible.