Top Mistakes To Avoid as a CIO

Dismayed ManSo, you have just been promoted to CIO or you’ve been on the job a few years. Either way, there probably mistakes you are or are going to make that are avoidable. Here are some of the top mistakes you can avoid in your role and become a stronger CIO. addressed the issue recently. It found the number one mistake CIOs make is practicing heads-down management. It’s a problem people with a technical background have difficulty with.

As the story states, “Technical people are task-oriented. They have a natural tendency to get completely immersed in technical problem solving. There is no room for heads-down management in CIOs — yet many continue to focus on the technical aspects of projects, forgetting about the people and the politics that can completely disrupt work.”

Not knowing their business thoroughly also is a common mistake among CIOs. As points out, “Many IT’ers go through their entire careers without ever working in the business end. Consequently, they have to learn the business on their own to make sure that their efforts are aligned with what the business needs. CIOs know this, but some fail to hone their own business skills — which is critical for building credibility with other executives in the organization.”

Another common error is not knowing what your IT team can accomplish. “Some IT’ers are experts in specific areas of IT, some are great with end business users, and some are journeymen who can succeed in numerous project roles. CIOs are ahead of the game when they get to know their staff members’ individual strengths and weaknesses. CIOs should be facilitating IT training to shore up any staff shortcomings. And they should know which staffers are their go-to players and rising stars,” the article says.

Another article at identified other common mistakes. It says, CIOs continue to be under massive pressure to innovate and deliver new technologies that boost the bottom line. Simultaneously, they must improve legacy systems and infrastructure and make sure they have a talented and motivated IT staff. No wonder CIOs feel as if they are juggling chain saws while walking a tight rope.”

That article says the top mistake is staying married to technology for too long. “Technology projects tend to be time-consuming, complex, and very expensive. So once a company has made a large investment in infrastructure or deployed a complex application, it often stays wedded to that technology too long and resists looking at alternatives. Tech-savvy customers and users expect more now. CIOs need to find new ways to improve the user experience while balancing cost, complexity, and security.”

Another top problem for CIOs, in’s view, is those who lose touch with their customers. “Typically, CIOs take direction from senior management and cater to their needs and priorities. Pleasing your boss is one thing, but losing sight of users’ and customers’ needs is quite another. All too soon, user dissatisfaction makes its way quickly back up the management chain,” the article says.

Of course the best people to learn from are CIOs who have made mistakes – and are willing to share with their peers. Another article included insights from some CIOs. Vincent Melvin, CIO of Arrow Electronics had a particularly salient point: be realistic about what you can deliver. He recounted, “Years ago, I was involved in a large-scale divestiture deal with a big customer, and we committed to take on a logistics capability that we didn’t have the systems in place to handle. The timeframe was too tight — but rather than risk the deal, I signed up for commitments that couldn’t be delivered on. The effort and energy to address these challenges we created impacted the customer and the team.”


Keith Griffin
Keith Griffin is an award-winning business writer and editor with more than 30 years experience as a journalist. His work has been published in The Boston Globe, Medical Economist, Good Housekeeping,, the Hartford Courant, CT Law Tribune and numerous other regional publications.